MG4H8E      Half Unit
Social Entrepreneurship in Context

This information is for the 2024/25 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Kerryn Krige (MAR.9.06) and Dr Jonathan Roberts (MAR.9.05)


This course is compulsory on the Executive MSc in Social Business and Entrepreneurship. This course is not available as an outside option.

Course content

This course focuses on how social entrepreneurs, policy makers, impact investors and other stakeholders understand and function in contexts that are unstable, complex and contradictory. Doing so, requires a distinct set of skills from the social entrepreneur as they navigate the context within which they are embedded, to generate the social, environmental and market returns they seek.  To whom do social enterprises turn in fragile states, where the rule of law is weak, and they need to do business? How do social enterprises work in isolated or marginalised communities where there is physical, social, and political exclusion? How do social enterprises that are established to address patriarchy, function within the patriarchal community? These questions flag some of the contextual paradoxes social entrepreneurs face, as they deliver social and environmental value through their enterprises. These paradoxes have a profound effect on social entrepreneurial action and determine the strategies, skills and tools needed to navigate context. As such, this course deepens learnings of the EMSBE programme, building on the motivation, hybridity, organisational structuring, and operational approaches that are taught as part of the programme. 

This course takes a multi-disciplinary approach, drawing from management, sociology, entrepreneurship, and development studies to present a view of social entrepreneurship across four contextual dimensions: political, social, market and field.

Class sessions are practical, focused on developing the skills and strategies students need to navigate these dimensions. Theoretically, the course draws from institutional and social capital theories. Students will learn how legitimacy is built, the delicate balance of conforming to normative and regulatory systems, the duality of formal and informal logics and how this informs the social entrepreneurial response. It analyses the link between context and organisational characteristics, and how this affects managerial decisions relating to financing, scaling and social outcomes. 

The course then explores how these approaches apply to different stakeholders in the sector. For the entrepreneur, it demands a dynamic mix of skills to navigate the complexity, contradictions, and fragility of their environment. For the impact investor, it requires innovation in the development and management of funds. For the policy maker, it requires a nuance in approach that accommodates a multitude of realities, which is often at odds with bureaucratic government systems.

By studying this course, students will be able to deliver on their social entrepreneurial activities in different contexts, having developed their theoretical positions and applied tools and frameworks to deepen their professional perspectives. It has as an underpinning philosophy that social entrepreneurship is shaped by the context it operates in, whilst shaping that context through its activities, and equips students with the skills they need to navigate this complexity. 


Ten integrated lecture/seminars of three hours each, delivered across two modules (teaching blocks).

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 case study in the ST.

Using a single case study, students will submit a case study analysis that discusses the effect of context on the scenario given (1500 words).

Indicative reading

  • Amoako, I. O. (2019). Trust, Institutions and Managing Entrepreneurial Relationships in Africa - An SME Perspective (First, Issue March 2018). Springer International Publishing.`
  • Amoako, I. O., Akwei, C., & Damoah, I. (2020). “We Know Their House, Family, and Workplace:” Trust in Entrepreneurs’ Trade Credit Relationships in Weak Institutions. Journal of Small Business Management, 00(00), 1–30.
  • Baker, T., & Welter, F. (2020). Why Contexts Play an Ever-Increasing Role in Entrepreneurship Research. In Contextualizing Entrepreneurship Theory (pp. 3–13).
  • Boettke, P. J., & Coyne, C. J. (2009). Context Matters: Institutions and Entrepreneurship. In Foundations and Trends in Entrepreneurship (Vol. 5, Issue 3).
  • Cherrier, H., Goswami, P., & Ray, S. (2017). Social entrepreneurship: Creating value in the context of institutional complexity. Journal of Business Research, 86(November 2017), 245–258.
  • Hamann, R., Luiz, J., Ramaboa, K., Khan, F., Dhlamini, X., & Nilsson, W. (2020). Neither Colony nor Enclave: Calling for dialogical contextualism in management and organization studies. Organization Theory, 1(1), 263178771987970.
  • Johns, G. (2017). Reflections on the 2016 decade award: Incorporating context in organizational research. Academy of Management Review, 42(4), 577–595.
  • Kerlin, J. A. (Ed.). (2017b). Shaping Social Enterprise: Understanding Institutional Context and Influence (First, Issue March). Emerald Publishing.
  • Lyon, F. (2000). Trust, Networks and Norms: The Creation of Social Capital in Agricultural Economies in Ghana. World Development, 28(4), 663–681.
  • Welter, F., & Baker, T. (2021). Moving Contexts onto New Roads: Clues from Other Disciplines. Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice, 45(5), 1154–1175.
  • Welter, F., Baker, T., & Wirsching, K. (2019). Three waves and counting: the rising tide of contextualization in entrepreneurship research. Small Business Economics, 52(2), 319–330.


Presentation (20%) and case analysis (80%) in the ST.

1. Video Presentation (Group) 20%: Students will submit a short video. Here students must describe a selected context, identify the barriers for social entrepreneurship in this context and propose a policy approach that would address these barriers in the short, medium, and long term.

2. Case analysis 80%, 2000 words: Using a case study, students will apply the theoretical and contextual dimensions (political, social, market and field) introduced in class, to analyse their impact on the example given in the case.

Key facts

Department: Management

Total students 2023/24: Unavailable

Average class size 2023/24: Unavailable

Controlled access 2023/24: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Commercial awareness