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Unsung Entrepreneurs - UK Study

6 March 2002 at 12:03 pm
Staff Reporter
A recent UK study on 'unsung entrepreneurs', described as those who operate for social gain and not profit, offers some interesting insights that are relevant to the Australian scene.

Staff Reporter | 6 March 2002 at 12:03 pm


Unsung Entrepreneurs - UK Study
6 March 2002 at 12:03 pm

A recent UK study on ‘unsung entrepreneurs’, described as those who operate for social gain and not profit, offers some interesting insights that are relevant to the Australian scene.

The study is a collaboration between the Barclays Centre for Entrepreneurship, Barclays Bank and the University of Durham Business School and asks who are these entrepreneurs, what do they do and how can they be supported.

The authors say that much of what is known about entrepreneurship for social purposes is anecdotal and those involved individually are only recently emerging on the political agenda.

The authors say that for this reason the study presents the findings of 80 in-depth interviews with individuals involved in entrepreneurial activity for social rather than financial gain.

The findings presented reveal that individuals working entrepreneurially for social gain share many similarities with their profit-driven counterparts, they bring vision, passion, creativity and the ability to network and build the relationships necessary to engage others and achieve their vision.

Also, like many business entrepreneurs, individuals working entrepreneurially for social gain have strong motivations including: personal satisfaction from knowing that a special issue is being tackled; the opportunity of affecting change and the achievement of meeting a local need.

Despite this, the findings reveal that while most respondents describe the work of their initiatives as entrepreneurial, they are less keen to identify themselves as entrepreneurs.

Overwhelmingly, the findings presented point to the diversity of social initiatives not only in terms of the range of the social needs which they address but also in their activities and structure.

The findings presented also reveal the economic and social impact of social initiatives: jobs are created; income is generated and social problems are successfully addressed.

Finance and issues related to access and availability of funding are, however, significant constraints.

For most participating initiatives, less than 50% of their income is generated by sales. The remaining amount is provided by a variety of short-term sources, provided only when time-consuming funding proposals have been developed.

As a consequence, for many, a ‘grant dependency culture’ is the greatest barrier that they must overcome.

The study provides a breakdown of the age and education of social entrepreneurs.

It found that 62% of the sample were aged between 30-59 years of age with the majority of these (30%) aged between 40 and 49; 88% of those interviewed held qualifications.

Analysis of these by highest qualification achieved found that of the sample, 1 held a PhD; 13 had Masters degrees, and 10 had undergraduate degrees.

Many in the sample also emphasised the ‘life’ skills which they had acquired and identified these as relevant to their current activities. These findings suggest that individuals establish social initiatives later in life once they have acquired both education and life experiences, suggesting a highly skilled group of people.

If you would like an electronic version (only PDF format available) of the completed study called “Unsung Entrepreneurs: Entrepreneurship for Social Gain” please send us an e-mail to

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