Philip T. Roundy
His research focuses on understanding how social entrepreneurs – individuals that address social problems (e.g. homelessness, hunger) using business methods – get the resources they need to found and grow their organizations. Social entrepreneurship is a phenomenon of growing economic, social, and cultural importance and is becoming an increasingly vital component of both developed and emerging economies. However, social entrepreneurs face several unique challenges in acquiring the financial (e.g. seed and growth capital) and non financial (e.g. media attention, reputation) resources they need. Foremost among these challenges is that social entrepreneurs must strike a delicate balance between the social problems they address and their creation of economic wealth.
The tension of remaining faithful to both a social and an economic mission manifests in several ways. It can influence how social entrepreneurs’ set up their organization (e.g. as a for-profit, a nonprofit, or a hybrid), how they create narratives to describe their ventures, and even how they understand the intersection between their personal values and their “work lives”. In particular, juggling the creation of social and economic value often makes it difficult for social entrepreneurs to effectively communicate about the value of their ventures to their diverse collection of funding sources, which can include philanthropists, private foundations, government organizations, angel investors, venture capitalists, and impact investors.
In his dissertation, he addresses this problem. Specifically, he asks; how can social entrepreneurs improve their ability to influence the resource allocation decisions of their funders and resource providers?
He is examining this question through an in-depth field study where he is interviewing and observing individuals involved in all facets of the social enterprise sector: social entrepreneurs, board members, funders, attorneys, volunteers, consultants, and members of the media. He is currently focusing on U.S. based social entrepreneurs, with a particular emphasis on the vibrant social enterprise sector here in Austin. However, he also plans to expand his sample to include social entrepreneurs from around the globe. Moreover, he also is hoping to use data from the Dell Social Innovation Challenge (one of the largest social entrepreneurship competitions in the world and sponsored by UT’s RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service) in order to enrich his findings
Through this research he hopes to make several contributions. First, an analysis of how social entrepreneurs get the resources they need will address the lack of systematic research on social enterprise funding and investment. His research will also hopefully address the more general shortage of theoretical work in social entrepreneurship and provide theoretical underpinnings that can be built upon and validated by other researchers. Beyond its contribution to social entrepreneurship, he hopes that his research can reveal insights valuable to the broader fields of entrepreneurship and strategic management. For instance, gaining insight into how social entrepreneurs construct narratives that create strong emotional responses in their funders will address the lack of research examining companies’ ability to influence their stakeholders through emotional narratives and storytelling. It will also add to the limited number of studies considering the role of emotion in market evaluations. Moreover, social enterprises represent a type of organization that must juggle two dominant ways of thinking (i.e. social and economic “logics”) and thus, must manage and cultivate very different forms of the same resource (e.g. multiple forms of reputation, legitimacy, and attention). Understanding how social entrepreneurs use strategies to navigate this tension will hopefully uncover insights into how other types of organizations balance multiple logics and diverse portfolios of resource providers.
Ultimately, his goal is not only to generate a strong theoretical contribution to the field of management but also one that is built on findings with practical implications for the social entrepreneurship community. He believes that one of the reasons he is so drawn to social enterprise is because the struggle of social entrepreneurs to balance social and economic value creation mirrors the tension faced by academics to engage in research that makes both a strong contribution to theory and that has significant practical and societal implications. In increasing the understanding of how social entrepreneurs effectively balance their goals, he hopes to improve his own ability to navigate this tension.
Receiving a Powers Fellowship will have a significant impact on his research. With the funding he will be able to increase his travel, which will allow him to create a sample of social entrepreneurs that includes multiple geographic regions. More specifically, with the additional funding, he hopes to be able to expand his sample to include international social entrepreneurs. This will help to make his research more representative of the global social enterprise movement and stands to significantly bolster the generalizability and richness of his findings.
In addition to furthering his dissertation research, receiving a Powers Fellowship will also allow him to intensify his efforts on several of the manuscripts he is currently working on with faculty members.