CSE Introduction and Theoretical Framework
This learning unit aims to develop students’ understanding of the conception, practices, and criticisms of corporate social entrepreneurship (CSE). Focusing on the wider political, economic, and developmental context in which CSE has emerged and is practiced. It will focus on the origins of CSE from Corporate Social Responsibility including philanthropy, enterprise and profit, social enterprise, and social entrepreneurship.
Distinctive Characteristics of CSE – Practical Requirements for the Corporate
This learning unit take a practical approach focusing on elaborating the distinctive characteristics of CSE and the practical requirements for the corporate to engage in Corporate Social Entrepreneurship.
Intermediate Corporate Social Entrepreneurship: from CSR to CSE

Implementing CSE in the organisation can bring a range of benefits including:

  • Higher productivity: there will be more talent retention and less turnover rates
  • Market access: meeting business and envionmental standards
  • Customer loyalty: particularly younger generations who are more conscious
  • Credibility: projecting the corporate image of care and respect towards the community

Organizations who adopt CSE can increase productivity and positively impact the society, the environment and sustainability. These organizations can meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. CSE in action improves the quality of life of the personnel and goes hand in hand with the economic interests and financial growth of the company.

Covin and Miles (1999) defined CSE it as “the presence of innovation with the objective of rejuvenating or redefining organizations, markets, or industries in order to create or sustain competitive superiority.” In parallel, the concept of Social Entrepreneurship emerged. Dees (1998) defined it as “innovative activity with a social purpose in either the private or nonprofit sector, or across both.”

The aim of CSE is to accelerate a companies’ organizational transformation into more powerful generators of societal betterment and in so doing generate profit for its shareholders.

CSE aims to produce a significant and comprehensive transformation of the way an organisation operates. There are a number of elements central to that process which include, creating an enabling environment, fostering corporate social intrapreneurs, amplifying corporate purpose and values, generating double value and building strategic alliances.

Creating an Enabling Environment so that companies can move from their old approach to CSR and then to the CSE approach.  To do this they must adopt an entrepreneurial mindset and cultivate an entrepreneurial environment that enables fundamental organizational transformation. This can only happen when the leadership champions the change. This requires a powerful vision of where the CSR revolution is taking the company and why it is vital to the organization’s success. Orin Smith, former President and CEO, Starbucks Coffee Company expressed it this way, “Aligning self-interest to social responsibility is the most powerful way to sustaining a company’s success.” That vision and strategy needs to be include changes in the company’s structures and processes. There must be performance measurement indicators for the economic and social value generated and the incentive and reward system must be aligned with these indicators. Through these the senior leadership helps ensure that operating performance is aligned with the organisation’s commitment to social value creation.

With the entrepreneurial culture CSE can create internal synergies bringing crossfunctional teams teams together with relevant stakeholders.  This system helps the company “think out of the box” and “work across silos.” While in traditional companies management teams are comprised exclusively by those who create revenue, when companies engage in CSE, management teams are also filled by those with the primary responsibility of creating social value. This supports the permeation of organisational values to all business units in the company. CSE supports the development of entrepreneurial activity in a corporate setting, and entrepreneurial talent is actively sought and recruited, and autonomous entrepreneurs are empowered and given clear goals consistent with a solid value-based organizational culture.

The Corporate Social Intrapreneur. The CSE process is powered by multiple change agents or intrapreneurs. Social and corporate entrepreneurship differentiates the roles of the social or corporate entrepreneur from the role of managers. Both are distinct and typically sequenced: the intrepreneur is a change agent for launching start ups, the latter is critical for seeing these initiatives through and implementing them. (Thompson, Alvy, and Lees 2000). In CSE, both of these roles coexist permanently; corporations need to be entrepreneurial in order to innovate and go beyond their traditional managerial approaches. This means ultimately transforming the way the company is managed. The key vehicles for moving the company in this direction are individuals within the enterprise who are focused on fostering and bringing about the internal organizational transformation and innovation that moves the organization to more advanced state of CSR.

Research by (Austin, Leonard et al. 2005) identified some defining characteristics of CSIntrapreneurs decribing them as internal champions, who advocate for the integration of social and business value as a central tenet for the company. They are good communicators, who can articulate the rationale and importance of the transformation. They are also active listeners to various stakeholders and are able to speak to these groups in ways that reveal how the social action is relevant to their needs and interests. They are creators of innovative solutions: new resource configurations, actions, and relationships.  They are catalysts for change, who inspire and create synergies in the work of others. They are coordinators, with an ability to reach across internal and external boundaries, consolidating and aligning interests and incentives. They are perceived as useful contributors who support the success of others. Corporate Social Intrapreneurs are team players who enable others. Finally, they are cognizant of the realities of the corporate environment, they are cost-conscious and mindful of the bottom line. Change is framed in terms of aligned incentives. As organizational change agents, they need to assess how fast and far they can move the transformational process within the realities of the organization.


Austin, James, Herman Leonard, Ezequiel Reficco, and Jane Wei-Skillern. 2005. Social Entrepreneurship: It’s For Corporations, Too. In Social Entrepreneurship: New Paradigms of Sustainable Social Change, edited by A. Nicholls. Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.

Covin, Jeffrey G, and Morgan P Miles. 1999. Corporate entrepreneurship and the pursuit of competitive advantage. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice 23 (3):47-63.

Dees, J. Gregory. 1998. The Meaning of ‘Social Entrepreneurship. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School. Comments and suggestions contributed from the Social Entrepreneurship Funders Working Group.

Thompson, John, Geoff Alvy, and Ann Lees. 2000. Social entrepreneurship – a new look at the people and the potential. Management Decision 38 (5):348-338.

Exercise Files
CSE Intermediate Exercise – Module 2 Lesson 5.pptx
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