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The Research 

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There is every indication that social entrepreneurism has the potential to move the mental health equity dialogue forward in a meaningful way. In each area of shortcoming in current models of care social entrepreneurs have clear strengths: (i) They are highly effective in creating linkages across systems that do not normally communicate with one another. (ii) Their solutions are fundamentally community-based and grounded in the creation of social capital. (iii) By offering highly effective and engaging solutions they are able to generate change in contexts characterized by long histories of apathy and adversity. (iv) They operate effectively in contexts in which there are very limited material resources.

While SE is a framework that has seen an extensive uptake in the generation of solutions to pervasive social problems in the past 20 years, investigation into its applicability to health is very limited.

One exploratory study that examined the work of rural healthcare providers in Tanzania from a SE perspective noted the importance of factors such as the credibility of the providers and their ability to bridge different sectors/stakeholders (Farmer & Kilpatrick, 2009). Another study in Holland examined the use of “health brokers” for marginalized groups and likewise emphasized their role in building social capital, noting the importance of “systemic entrepreneurship” – SE principles embedded in service systems (Harting et al., 2010). Overall, and as was the case in a recent systematic review (Short, Moss, & Lumpkin, 2009), research into social entrepreneurship in health is minimal to date.

See Bill Drayton’s commentary on the need to incorporate SE frameworks into the healthcare dialogue: Drayton in the WHO Bulletin

For a review of the concept of SE see:

Paredo, A., & McLean, M. (2006). Social entrepreneurship:  A critical review of the concept. Journal of World Business, 41, 56-65.


Farmer, J., & Kilpatrick, S. (2009). Are rural health professionals also social entrepreneurs? Social Science & Medicine, 69, 1651-1658.

Harting, J., Kunst, A., Kwan, A., & Stronks, K. (2010). A ‘health broker’ role as a catalyst of change to promote health: An experiment in deprived Dutch neighbourhoods. Health Promotion International. Advance Access.

Short, J., Moss, T., & Lumpkin, G. (2009). Research in social entrepreneurship: Past contributions and future opportunities. Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, 3, 161-194

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