Henton, Melville & Walesh (1999) describes a civic entrepreneur as one who “gets involved out of enlightened, long-term self-interest, tied to the health of the local economy and the community.” From this definition, it is apparent that a civic entrepreneur manages a venture aimed at solving social problems in order to create better societies. Unlike traditional entrepreneurs commonly found in the private sector, civic entrepreneurs are found in the public sector. They identify social ills, pool resources from both private and public sectors, undertake risk, and implement solutions geared towards social improvement. In addition, they focus on long-term social and environmental goals instead of the profit goal. Civic entrepreneurship, however, requires a distinct set if skills because of the unique characteristics of public organizations which include larger sizes, stringent statutory obligations, access to public funds thus mandatory accountability, and formal management structures.
d) What distinguishes civic-minded entrepreneurs from traditional or sustainable entrepreneurs?
Civic entrepreneurs and traditional entrepreneurs share most of the common attributes of an entrepreneur such as innovative, risk-taking, motivated, and self-confidence among others. However, the distinction between these two lies in their respective purposes and motivational goals. Leadbeater & Goss (1998) gives three characteristics that distinguish civic entrepreneurs from traditional entrepreneurs. Firstly, civic entrepreneurs are driven by the need for social change, not profit generation. Their priority is creating lasting positive impacts on communities by innovating new ways of addressing such ills. On the other hand, traditional entrepreneurs are driven by profit generation. Their social contribution efforts are an afterthought action to get personal credit.
Secondly, civic entrepreneurs use a collaborative leadership style unlike the charismatic leadership style adopted by traditional entrepreneurs. The former understand that their success depends on the joint effort of those affected by the social problem. Therefore, they involve the community, employees, management, political representatives and private sector partners in joint discussions and come up with comprehensive solutions. They base this collaboration on the premise that each person has unique skills, expertise and experiences to offer. Thus, the success of the group is more important than individual recognition. On the other hand, traditional entrepreneurs assume charismatic leadership, characterized by the need to stand out from the rest and be recognized for their solitary contribution. They make decisions without consultations and take sole credit for success, and thus lose out on untapped ideas from subordinate employees.
Thirdly, civic entrepreneurs combine both managerial and political focus while traditional entrepreneurship only deals with managerial focus. Since civic entrepreneurs work in public organizations, they have political issues to surmount. To change the mission and purpose of the institution, they have to renegotiate with politicians, who determine regulations governing such institutions. Convincing politicians to embrace a new venture is usually a daunting task that requires good communication and persuasion skills, and impeccable management record to lend credibility to an entrepreneur’s proposal. On the other hand, traditional entrepreneurs only deal with managerial issues since their ventures are private in nature, thus free from political interference.
In conclusion, civic entrepreneurs are the next generation of leaders who will take public institutions to the next stage of social evolution. These leaders embody the traits of traditional entrepreneurs such as risk taking, innovative and self-confidence that drive change. Perhaps the most important trait embodied by them is their compassion that drives their efforts towards alleviating social problems. In addition, such entrepreneurial activities will help shed off the bad reputation that the public sector has had over the years such as tedious bureaucracy and corruption. With more and more of such leaders coming up, society can hope for better social services.
Henton, D., Melville, J. & Walesh, K. (1999). Civic Entrepreneurship: Economic Professional as Collaborative Leader. Community Economics Newsletter, 269. University of Wisconsin-Extension Press. Retrieved from: http://www.move2011.info/files/Active/7_Civic_Entrepreneurship.pdf.
Leadbeater, C. & Goss, S. (1998). Civic Entrepreneurship. Demos. Great Britain: BDW Associates. Retrieved from: http://www.move2011.info/files/Active_Network_2013/Desk_Research/7_