Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Policy Studies

Committee Member

Dr. David Willis, Committee Co-Chair

Committee Member

Dr. David W. Hughes, Committee Co-Chair

Committee Member

Dr. William B. Gartner

Committee Member

Dr. F. Catherine Mobley

Committee Member

Dr. Holley H. Ulbrich


The overall theme of this dissertation is social entrepreneurship and economic development policy. Empirical studies show strong evidence of the important role entrepreneurship plays in economic development. Recently, social entrepreneurship has emerged as a distinct field of scholarly study with the potential to increase economic development activities. It has the added benefits of increasing social and human capital and of reducing market failure and government failure by assisting underserved and marginalized populations in improving their standards of living. In spite of this potential, entrepreneurship in general has been neglected as part of a comprehensive economic development policy. Social entrepreneurship in particular receives little mention in economic development policy discussions. While lip service is paid to entrepreneurship as part of a regional economic development strategy, most expenditures are dedicated to the zero-sum game of attracting large existing firms into individual regions. Three essays focused on different aspects of social entrepreneurship and economic development. The first essay focuses on defining social entrepreneurship because the current lack of consensus impedes scholarly development and leaves policymakers without a clear direction regarding its incorporation into economic development policy. Corpus linguistic analysis is used as a structured approach to create a definitional framework of social entrepreneurship as a multidimensional continuum. The second essay is a case study with the purpose of developing a framework for measuring the economic impact of the activities of a social enterprise. The essay uses a social accounting matrix (SAM) as the approach to quantify the impact of the case subject on economic activity, job creation, and income. Both scholars and policymakers could use this framework as a tool to better understand the economic impact of social enterprises and policies supporting them. The third essay examines benefits corporations and their impact on economic development. Benefit corporations are a recently created legal form of organization that codifies an organization's responsibility to create a public benefit while also balancing the fiduciary responsibilities required to make the organization financially viable. The essay also studies the suitability of this legal form for social enterprises and analyzes arguments for and against benefit corporations. The essay includes a study of the types of benefits produced by benefit corporations in the state of California and examines the impact on economic development from a traditional viewpoint as well as the broader “capabilities approach”. The essay also proposes several theoretical explanations of how benefit corporations (or similar social enterprises) fund the creation of public benefits. Finally, the essay undertakes a statistical study to compare the failure rates of benefit corporations and conventional corporations. This essay provides policymakers with a clearer understanding of the potential of benefit corporations to impact economic development. It also discusses some of the impediments to the adoption of benefit corporations and provides suggestions for mitigating these impediments. The essay provides scholars with a framework for further research on benefit corporations and economic development.



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