This paper looks at how ideas, constructs, methods and insights coming out of systems thinking and the sciences of complex systems can be applied to the study of social entrepreneurship. At present, there is no one general theoretical perspective that seeks to define social entrepreneurship in complex systems terms nor to explain how such a perspective can contribute to the generation of positive social outcomes. To remedy this, we propose ways that complexity theory can be used to develop a useful, and we hope, more practical theory. In particular, we explore how complexity ideas might be used to develop a robust theory of social entrepreneurial dynamics from the interrelated theoretical lenses offered in the complexity science approaches of social network theory, the study of emergence in self-organizing systems, complex adaptive systems theory, and nonlinear dynamical systems theory. After describing various possibilities, some hopeful thoughts on the future of the field are offered, particularly a call for initiating evolving partnerships among complexity scientists and social entrepreneurial practitioners and theorists.
Research Professor. Director at Learning Change Project – Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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