Embedding Diversity in Social Entrepreneurial Research: India’s Learning Laboratories
The Indian social entrepreneurial ecosystem is acknowledged by many as a site for emerging business models that could simultaneously address the challenges of poverty and inequitable growth. But the spurt in social entrepreneurial activity has not been matched by conversations on the diversity of approaches that make Indian social entrepreneurial initiatives unique. We suggest that situating social entrepreneurship within narratives such as ‘fortune at the bottom of the pyramid’ or ‘social business’ discounts the rich ways in which social entrepreneurship has been shaped by actors in India including the well-known Ashoka foundation, which began its journey in India. India has been an important site for experiments, a learning laboratory where a vibrant civil society has led social innovation and also demonstrated the role of communities as social entrepreneurs. In this chapter, we suggest that social entrepreneurship in India needs to be explored within a longer narrative of social innovation in India that precedes in many ways the rise of social entrepreneurship as a phenomenon in the twenty-first century in Europe and the United States. In this chapter, we first present a quick overview of some of the recent initiatives in the social entrepreneurial landscape in India presenting some gaps in understanding the social sector from the much-hyped governmental initiatives on Startup India as well as by presenting a case for a rethink on social entrepreneurship in India. We situate the diversity of Indian social entrepreneurship by theoretically grounding it within the larger context of social movements. Second, we look more closely into the idea of producer-owned cooperatives, which emerged in the Indian civil society space, and how these unique social enterprises demonstrate principles of social entrepreneurship quite different from the dominant narratives.
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