Promises of societal entrepreneurship: Sweden and beyond
Journal article, 2010
Purpose – Several types of entrepreneurship with a societal purpose coincide in Sweden today, some
stemming from older domestic traditions, others being more recent foreign influences. This paper aims
to interrelate social, civic, community, and other entrepreneurships in search of a more unifying
concept of societal entrepreneurship for Sweden and beyond.
Design/methodology/approach – As part of a larger study, Swedish researchers and practitioners
promoting some kind of entrepreneurship with societal purpose, are interviewed and asked for
examples and literature references. Altogether 176 actors are identified and 59 are interviewed.
The main distinguishing factors between different discourses of entrepreneurship are accounted for as
well as results from workshops where actors representing different discourses partook.
Findings – Seven societally oriented entrepreneurship discourses are distinguished, with different
foreign or domestic origins. Key characteristics for interrelating different discourses are the type of
actor (individual and/or collective) and purpose (social/ecological and/or economic) emphasized in
a discourse. Interactions documented from workshops indicate a potential in unifying different
entrepreneurships within a widened understanding of societal entrepreneurship.
Research limitations/implications – The field of entrepreneurship emphasizing societal utility is
fragmented with many parallel discourses. The conceptual analysis and empirical findings imply that
there is potential in a more unifying concept. Furthermore, in the limited Swedish setting, collective
dimensions of entrepreneurship stand out. This nevertheless implies that collective engagements into
entrepreneurship of any kind are worthy of more research and recognition.
Practical implications – Implications are primarily limited to societal entrepreneurship within
uncontested welfare states, such as Sweden, where most established societal needs are taken care
of through taxes utilized by a public sector. Societal entrepreneurship in such a setting becomes
a mechanism for renewal and experimentation.
Originality/value – The paper is original in its approach to identifying and interrelating current
discourses in Sweden.