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Beyond intellectual property and rich infrastructure: A community service learning perspective on universities' supportive role towards social entrepreneurs

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Universities are considered as important actors in ecosystems supporting social entrepreneurs due to their resources and intellectual property, based on scientific research. Such a view is based on discussions drawing on evidence in Western economies, i.e. mainly North America and Europe. However, this view is irrelevant to many developing countries, where universities are confronted with limited resources, underdeveloped scientific research, and even minimal knowledge of entrepreneurship. In such contexts, it is unclear how universities can support social entrepreneurs. We use the theoretical lens of Community Service Learning to argue that universities can support the entrepreneurial ecosystem by leveraging the critical mass of their students, faculty and staff members, and thus do not necessarily need rich infrastructure or IP. Based on a qualitative research in Bolivia, we introduce 18 basic activities for students, faculty, staff members and the community to support the development of social entrepreneurship, since these activities do not require any exceptional resources nor fundamental research.
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Beyond IP and rich infrastructure!
A Community Service Learning perspective on the universities’ supportive role
towards social entrepreneurs
Abel Diaz Gonzalez, Nikolay Dentchev, Maria del Carmen Roman
Vrije Universiteit Brussel, 1050 Brussels, Belgium
Authors’s pre-publication version
Cite as:
Diaz Gonzalez, A., Dentchev, N., & Roman Roig, M. (2020). Beyond IP and rich
infrastructure: A community service learing perspective on universities supportive
role towards social entrepreneurs. In Tsvetkova, Schmutzler De Uribe and Puh
(eds) Entrepreneurial Ecosystems Meet Innovation Systems: Synergies, Policy
Lessons and Overlooked Dimensions. Edward Elgar.
Beyond IP and rich infrastructure! A Community Service Learning perspective
on the universities’ supportive role towards social entrepreneurs
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0. ABSTRACT
Universities are considered as important actors in ecosystems supporting social
entrepreneurs due to their resources and intellectual property, based on scientific
research. Such a view is based on discussions drawing on evidence in Western
economies, i.e. mainly North America and Europe. However, this view is irrelevant
to many developing countries, where universities are confronted with limited
resources, underdeveloped scientific research, and even minimal knowledge of
entrepreneurship. In such contexts, it is unclear how universities can support social
entrepreneurs. We use the theoretical lens of Community Service Learning to
argue that universities can support the entrepreneurial ecosystem by leveraging
the critical mass of their students, faculty and staff members, and thus do not
necessarily need rich infrastructure or IP. Based on a qualitative research in
Bolivia, we introduce 18 basic activities for students, faculty, staff members and
the community to support the development of social entrepreneurship, since these
activities do not require any exceptional resources nor fundamental research.
KEYWORDS: Ecosystems, Social Entrepreneurship, Community Service
Learning, Entrepreneurial University.
Beyond IP and rich infrastructure! A Community Service Learning perspective
on the universities’ supportive role towards social entrepreneurs
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1. INTRODUCTION
Social entrepreneurs are known for their contribution to resolve social and
environmental issues (Smith & Woodworth, 2012), while being innovative in the use
of available resources (Mair & Marti, 2006). These contributions are not easily realized.
Social entrepreneurs are quite creative with their solutions for social and
environmental issues, even though they face many challenges in their endeavours
(Mair, Robinson, & Hockerts, 2006). Typical challenges are the lack of financial
resources, scarce human capital, and limited access to support networks,
partnerships, and alliances (Montgomery, Dacin, & Dacin, 2012). Therefore,
ecosystems supportive to social entrepreneurs are helpful to improve their contribution
to society due to the interconnectedness of various actors (Alvord, Brown, & Letts,
2004; ). Among these actors, universities are highlighted as playing a rather central
role as hub and resource providers (Howard & Sharma, 2006; Smith & Woodworth,
2012; Malecki, 2018).
However, the role of universities in the supportive ecosystems of social entrepreneurs
(SEs) is predominantly illustrated with cases from developed countries in Europe and
North America. It is generally argued that universities provide support by means of
their modern facilities and access to financial resources (Kirby, 2006). In addition, the
generation of specialized knowledge based on scientific research is regarded as a
valuable university contribution to ecosystems (Etzkowitz, 2004). This refers to the so-
called Triple Helix (Etzkowitz & Leydesdorff, 2000) and Quadruple Helix (Carayannis
& Campbell, 2010) of universities. However, such a Western view on the role of
universities in the ecosystem of SEs is difficult to adopt in many developing countries.
A vast majority of the universities in these countries are focusing on teaching, with
basic facilities, limited funding, and underdeveloped scientific research. There are also
developing countries where the knowledge of entrepreneurship is not at all established
among university professors, especially in cases with an outspoken communist or
authoritarian context. With this paper, we will argue that universities have a role to play
in the support of SEs, even if they have limited resources and lack intellectual property
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on the universities’ supportive role towards social entrepreneurs
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based on academic research. The need to address this knowledge gap is well
expressed by Siegel & Wright (2015, p. 583):
“[T]he debate regarding universities and academic entrepreneurship has relied too
much on the researchthird mission nexus, with its narrow focus on university
industry links. This has arisen because of the undue narrow emphasis of academic
entrepreneurship on the transfer of scientists’ inventions from the laboratory to licences
and start-ups, particularly in relation to formal IP, such as patents and licences.”
We address the above knowledge gap by arguing that universities can always
leverage their students, staff and existing networks to support SEs, even when they
have scant resources, limited fundamental research, and even a certain ignorance of
entrepreneurship. We use the theoretical lens of Community Service Learning (CSL)
(Furco, 1996) to make this argument. To realize our objectives, we have conducted
an explorative case study research in Bolivia, using data from 21 semi-structured
interviews and 3 focus groups, complemented with secondary data and observations
in the cities of Santa Cruz, San Jose de Chiquitos, Tarija, La Paz, Cochabamba, and
Batallas. We aim at describing the various existing activities and we illustrate new
opportunities that universities could explore to contribute to the ecosystems in support
of SEs.
The remainder of this book chapter is divided into six sections. The first presents the
main challenges that SEs face and how ecosystems can help to resolve these
challenges. The second section introduces the theoretical framework of CSL. The third
section describes the methodology used for this study. The fourth presents an
overview of the background of Bolivia, i.e. the context of our study, while the fifth
section is dedicated to the results, discussing the current role and future opportunities
for Bolivian universities within the ecosystems in support to social entrepreneurs
through CSL. The sixth and final section presents the conclusions of this paper.
2. THE CHALLENGES FOR SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS ADDRESSED
FROM AN ECOSYSTEM PERSPECTIVE
Before elaborating on the main argument of our paper - i.e. universities can support
social entrepreneurs without specific resources, research or even knowledge about
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on the universities’ supportive role towards social entrepreneurs
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entrepreneurship - one needs to first understand the main challenges of SEs, and
hence grasp the potential roles of other ecosystem actors. SEs are confronted by a
different type of challenges depending on their context, goals, and sector of
activity (Mair & Martí, 2006). In Table 1, we summarize the main challenges faced by
SEs as discussed in the relevant literature:
Type of challenge
Authors discussing it in the literature
Mission and strategy
Lack of orientation, mission drift, difficulties to formulate
sustainable short- and long-term strategy, inadequate legal
forms
Austin, Stevenson, & Wei-Skillern, 2006; Certo
& Miller, 2008; Dees, 1998; Honig, 1998; Mair,
Robinson, & Hockerts, 2006; : Martin & Osber,
2007
Education and competences
Lack of managerial and financial knowledge; difficulties
when matching mission and values; strong and specific
competencies needed to achieve social impact
Certo & Miller, 2008; G. Dees, 2007; Letaifa,
2016; Volkmann, Tokarski, & Ernst, 2008;
Webb, Kistruck, Ireland, & Ketchen, 2010;
Wincent et al., 2016
Funding and resource attraction
Difficulties to manage and achieve financial sustainability;
complex ways to access to capital; challenges of attracting
investment; complex efforts to access financial services
Bloom & Dees, 2008; Letaifa, 2016; Roundy,
2017; Shaw & Carter, 2007; Wincent et al.,
2016
Human resources:
Selection and engagement of people with the right profile;
relying on volunteers; challenges to compete with market
rates in terms of salaries
Dees, 2012; Letaifa, 2016; Roundy, 2017;
Sharir & Lerner, 2006; Totterman & Sten, 2005
Evaluation and performance
Difficulties to establish/determine performance indicators
and impact on social or environmental projects; social
return on investment is often subjective
(Ardichvili, Cardozo, & Ray, 2003; Autio et al.,
2014)
Table 1: Challenges for social entrepreneurs
The first challenge is related to SEs mission and strategy. Having a clear social
mission is a central attribute for SEs (Austin et al., 2006). Drift in their social orientation
is one of the most important concerns, since some SEs tend to lose the focus of their
social mission upon the maturity of their organization (Wronka, 2013). This concern is
also related to subsequent strategic choices related to income generation (profit), or
the transitioning to hybridity (parallel profit and non-profit activities or only adopting a
non-profit type of organization).
The second challenge is related to the educational background and the competences
of SEs. SEs often lack managerial and business skills (Dees, 2007), as they often
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have not benefited from a business-related education. Some SEs do not even have
post-secondary education. Lacking business-related skills, or even formal education
in some cases, represents a barrier for the daily business activities and for the strategic
development of social enterprises (Mair et al., 2006).
Funding and the attraction of resources are among the main obstacles for SEs. They
are constantly looking to capture the stakeholder’s interest and trust to gain the
support needed to scale up their social venture (Shaw & Carter, 2007). Moreover, their
social missions are often seen as opposed to the creation of economic value and
profitability (Mair & Martí, 2006). In addition to this, access to finances (venture capital,
investment funds, banks or investors) requires competences and time effort that are
often not feasible for SEs (Casson & Della Giusta, 2007).
The attraction of qualified human resources is the next challenge for SEs, presented
in Table 1 above. Social entrepreneurs often cannot afford to pay competitive salaries
to their employees (Sharir & Lerner, 2006), and hence they most likely may not attract
the employees with the best profiles from the perspective of competences. In addition,
it appears difficult to attract people with the right profile that share the same values,
ideas, vision, and are able to create social connections and alliances based on limited
resources (Volkmann et al., 2008). Moreover, SEs often rely on volunteers whose
commitment and availability can fluctuate over time (Sharir & Lerner, 2006).
The last challenge discussed in the literature is the performance evaluation of SEs. It
is barely based on economic indicators, while social impact measurement is complex,
subjective and in practice insufficiently adopted (Mair & Martí, 2006). Consequently,
SEs have no clear stimuli to improve their performance and increase their social
impact. It is also difficult for them to communicate the added value of their venture
convincingly to their stakeholders.
Keeping in mind these five sets of challenges, it is important to mention that the
success (or failure) of SEs does not only rely on their own activity, but also on their
environment composed by other entrepreneurs, supportive organizations, policies,
funders and other relevant stakeholders within their ecosystem (Roundy, 2017).
Entrepreneurial ecosystems are based on the connection of multiple actors with
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complementary knowledge and assets, which all together lead to better business
activity (Autio, Kenney, Mustar, Siegel, & Wright, 2014; Roundy, 2017). Thanks to the
variety of actors, entrepreneurial ecosystems provide (a) access to different type of
resources, (b) qualified human capital, (c) linkages between organizations, (d)
institutional robustness to promote adequate demand for specific goods and services,
(e) political willingness and (f) collective action and high levels of social capital
(Biggeri, Testi, & Bellucci, 2017; Goyal, Sergi, & Jaiswal, 2016; Letaifa, 2016).
Universities have been highlighted as a key player in entrepreneurial ecosystems
because of their knowledge and assets (Sánchez-Barrioluengo & Benneworth, 2019).
Moreover, the role of universities in entrepreneurial ecosystems is noteworthy as they
typically interact with stakeholders such as government organizations, public and
private sector actors (e.g. banks, NGOs, labour unions, industrial associations, SMEs
and MNEs) (Spigel & Harrison, 2018). After all, neither the above-mentioned
challenges of SEs nor the general networking role of universities presuppose
abundant resources or fundamental research. We will further use the theoretical
framework of CSL to develop our argument that universities can provide tremendous
support based only on the critical mass of students and faculty.
3. COMMUNITY SERVICE LEARNING
In higher education, Community Service Learning is a pedagogic strategy aimed at
offering students the opportunity to work with local community groups in resolving their
real social challenges (Jones, Warner, & Kiser, 2010). In doing so, students are
confronted with the needs of communities, which gives them the opportunity to reflect
upon and resolve the rather challenging social issues that they face (Furco, 1996).
In the words of Ejiwale and Posey (2008, p. 3), CSL is presented as an “opportunity
for students to develop their leadership skills, discover talents and gain meaningful
personal insights. This is achieved by applying theoretical learning content (from
courses) during a practical experience, characterized by incorporated social
engagement (Bringle & Hatcher, 1996). The activities organized within CSL are based
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on the expertise, contacts, and connections of faculty, university administration, and
staff, with the objective to pursue social goals (Vogelgesang & Astin, 2000).
Thus, students are assigned to work on different tasks within their community, where
a task can vary depending on the content of the class and the desired learning
outcome, through either direct or indirect contact with the groups within the targeted
community (Bringle & Hatcher, 1996). CSL focuses on personal growth and the
transformation of its participants, where values such as trust, mutual dependence,
reciprocity, self- confidence, and justice are placed at the core of the learning process
(Vogelgesang & Astin, 2000). Depending on the approach and the strategies, CSL
initiatives can be organized through curricular or extra-curricular activities or a
combination of both (Brower, 2011). When the activities are organized in an
extracurricular way, the engagement of the participants occurs mainly through
voluntarism and is not limited to students only, but is open to the whole academic
community (Furco, 1996). On the other hand, when CSL initiatives are part of the
curricula, activities are credit-bearing educational experiences, i.e. mostly compulsory
for the students (Bringle & Hatcher, 1996). Both, learning approaches provide
meaningful learning experiences while serving the community through available
university assets (Jones et al., 2010), which are mainly related to the willingness of
students, faculty, and staff to provide support.
For students, CSL offers the opportunity to confront real-life situations by applying
theories and concepts studied in the courses and thereby achieving a higher degree
of social awareness and commitment. For professors, these strategies create valuable
partnerships with their communities that could potentially open up new possibilities for
projects and collaborations. Furthermore, they motivate students to be more engaged
and committed to the course and the further learning of the subject. For the community
in general, CSL provides additional human resources that work on their own
challenges, while having a continued exchange of knowledge via students and
feedback from university experts (Vogelgesang & Astin, 2000). Some examples of
CSL programs in developing countries are related to homeless and indigenous groups,
minorities and vulnerable communities. Students contribute by proposing alternative
solutions to recurrent problems related to food, health, employment, shelter, and
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education (Jones et al., 2010). Overall, a CSL perspective makes it clear that
universities do not need to access to extraordinary resources and fundamental
research to support the community.
4. METHODOLOGY
To highlight the objective of this book chapter i.e. arguing that universities can
contribute within the ecosystem in support of SEs without ample resources and
fundamental research we have chosen the context of Bolivia. Bolivian universities
are predominantly teaching-oriented, working with limited resources and basic
infrastructure, while technology transfer between universities and entrepreneurship is
still in its infancy (Gottwald, Buch, & Giesecke, 2012). We have adopted a qualitative
research method (Eisenhardt, 1989) to study the Bolivian context of universities, their
interaction with SEs and the other actors in the ecosystem. Our study is based on 21
in-depth, semi-structured interviews and 3 focus groups, collected and held in Bolivia
during four non-consecutive weeks in different months between December 2017 and
December 2018.
The following cities in Bolivia were selected for our study: Santa Cruz de la Sierra, La
Paz, Cochabamba, San Jose de Chiquitos, Batallas, and Tarija. According to the local
knowledge of our contacts in Bolivia, these locations were a good setting for the study
because of the presence of one (or several) universities, the presence of SEs and
other relevant supportive organizations of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. After
discussions with various professors and university staff members from Bolivia, we
aimed at interviewing respondents with various backgrounds. An overview of the
interviews and focus groups can be found in Table 2 below.
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Table 2: List of respondents
Respondents in the data collection included SEs, regular entrepreneurs,
representatives from public institutions, incubators, funding organizations, technical
and vocational education institutions and universities. We used two different interview
protocols (see Appendix 1) for our study: one was designed for individual
entrepreneurs, and another used for supportive organizations (viz. universities, NGOs,
incubators, networks, government). Several versions of the interview protocol were
discussed in advance with 9 different scholars in Belgium and Bolivia in order to select
the most appropriate structure and questions.
No.
Code
Profile
Sector / type of
organisation
City
1
P1
University professor
Academia
Santa Cruz
2
P2
University professor
Academia
La Paz
3
P3
University professor
Academia
Tarija
4
P4
University professor
Academia
Santa Cruz
5
P5
University professor
Academia
Batallas
6
P6
Technical / vocational trainer
Academia
Cochabamba
7
P7
University professor
Academia
La Paz
8
P8
Manager
Consulting company
Santa Cruz
9
P9
Manager
Entrepreneur
Santa Cruz
10
P10
Manager
Entrepreneur
Cochabamba
11
P11
Head of government
department
Government
San Jose de
Chiquitos
12
P12
Manager
Incubator - private
Santa Cruz
13
P13
Head of Network
International network
Cochabamba
14
P14
Manager
NGO
Santa Cruz
15
P15
Manager
NGO
Santa Cruz
16
P16
Executive Member
Professional Network
Santa Cruz
17
P17
Professional
Professional Network
Santa Cruz
18
P18
Manager
Social Enterprise
Santa Cruz
19
P19
Manager
Social Enterprise
Santa Cruz
20
P20
Manager
Social Enterprise
Cochabamba
21
P21
Manager
Social Enterprise
Santa Cruz
22
FG1
Team - Government Division
Government
Tarija
23
FG2
Team Incubator
Incubator - public
Tarija
24 FG3
Team - University Network /
Student association
Academia La Paz
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As a measure of construct validity (Brink, 1993), participants were informed about the
purpose of the study and given the opportunity to ask questions during interviews. This
resulted in a better understanding of the phenomenon of study and improved the trust
relationship between researchers and respondents. This step was especially relevant
when approaching SEs living in extreme poverty, as they are not used to participating
in any type of scientific study. Interviews were recorded and further transcribed to
increase the reliability of the study (Brink, 1993). During the analysis of the research,
all information was coded and organized (Braun, Clarke, Hayfield, & Terry, 2018).
Using a methodological triangulation (Golafshani, 2003), we combined primary data
collection (i.e. interviews and focus group discussions) with more than 70 documents
obtained during our visit to Bolivia in combination with participant observations
(Eisenhardt & Graebner, 2007). The secondary data sources included brochures,
university reports, events material, promotional material, information from companies
and organizations, different types of campaigns and project materials. This
triangulation method reduces the potential bias and allows the researcher to acquire
in-depth knowledge of the context and enhances the reliability of the results.
Another triangulation tactic was the organization of events in which entrepreneurs and
other ecosystem actors took part. In collaboration with the Catholic University of
Bolivia (UCB) in Cochabamba and Tarija, we co-organized (1) two open lectures with
approximately 90 attendees each of students, social and conventional entrepreneurs,
(2) the entrepreneurship fair “Yo Emprendo Tarija” with the participation of more than
60 local entrepreneurs and 600 attendees and (3) a group mobility with 9 MSc and 2
PhD students from Belgium, which took place in Tarija with more than 100 local social,
student and conventional entrepreneurs in December 2018. Throughout all these
activities, we observed the various roles that local universities were capable of
adopting and saw several opportunities for them to continue supporting these types of
interventions and activities.
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on the universities’ supportive role towards social entrepreneurs
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5. THE BOLIVIAN CONTEXT
In 2005, the victory of the “Movement for Socialism” lead Bolivia to adopt political,
social and economic reforms (Querejazu, Zavaleta, & Mendizabal, 2014), with a major
impact on entrepreneurship. With the approval of the new constitution in 2009, the
country was re-organized under the “plural economy model”, characterised by state
(state-owned companies); private (private businesses); cooperative (cooperatives and
formal associations) and community economies, in which a vast majority of the
country’s workforce is located by means of peasant, community, artisan and
indigenous organisations (Galway, Corbett, & Zeng, 2012). In practice, these reforms
left the country with an environment that is somewhat demotivating to entrepreneurs.
An indication for this are the inadequate enterprise laws, the consecutive waves of
nationalization, and the outspoken socialist views of the country’s leadership.
Bolivia is rich in natural resources, such as fertile lands, bountiful minerals, water and
forest (Querejazu et al., 2014). The government actively seeks to generate profits out
of the natural gas reserves, as this, along with other natural resources, has always
been and is a significant part of the Bolivian economy (Mares, Hartley, & Medlock,
2008). These natural resources become relevant when formulating the development
strategies for the country. In spite of these rich veins of natural resources, it is being
argued that Bolivia suffers from poor governance and inadequate institutional policies
(cf. Kaplan, 2006).
In the field of higher education, there are 15 public universities across the country
grouped in the CEUB University System (Comité Ejecutivo de la Universidad
Boliviana), which serves the majority of the university students in the country. There
are also several private universities with a teaching orientation present in the country,
where the main source of funding is the tuition fees from students and other activities
organized through executive education. Both types of university lack fundamental
research capacities and established technology transfer offices and procedures
(Rodriguez Ostria & Weise Vargas, 2006).
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All public universities have offices dedicated to managing social engagement (DISU)
or Extension Offices (DIGEU), which have as purview the developing of the strategies
for engaging the university with industry, government, and society at large. At the
private level, the General Regulation of Private Universities (RGUP) requires private
universities to develop extension activities, community engagement, and promotion of
local culture (Rodriguez Ostria & Weise Vargas, 2006). These policies force
universities to establish and maintain links with their local communities, especially in
a country where there is clear fragmentation and where there are many inequalities
among the population (Galway et al., 2012). The disparity in ethnics, socio-economic
situation, and geographical location show a fractured country where the majority of the
population is indigenous (Anderson, Honig and Peredo, 2006).
Overall, the Bolivian context is quite relevant to our study. The research tradition in
this context is rather scant, as universities are not endowed with many resources.
Moreover, the entrepreneurial climate and knowledge is not particularly stimulated due
to the political context of the country. In Bolivia, SEs address the primary needs of
individuals and communities, related to their survival (Gaiger, Nyssens, & Wanderley,
2019). In this country, we can count SEs among the peasant, community, artisan
associations and cooperatives, as they are ultimately driving social change (Querejazu
et al., 2014).
6. FINDINGS
Following the analysis of the collected data, we hereby present an overview of the role
of universities within the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Bolivia. We will show the main
challenges that universities face to support SEs, as it confirms the relevance of the
setting with respect to the knowledge-gap identified universities with limited IP
generation, scarce resources and even general ignorance of entrepreneurship.
Further, we discuss how higher education institutions (HEIs) mobilize their critical
mass (students and staff) in support of SEs.
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6.1 Main challenges of Bolivian HEIs to support social entrepreneurs
Firstly, it is important to discuss the challenge Bolivian HEIs face to provide
entrepreneurial training (Lekhanya, 2016). Several universities have programs in
Business and Management Sciences (both at undergraduate and graduate level),
where entrepreneurship is being taught. Yet, their current curriculum is deemed
insufficient to provide students with the proper knowledge and tools to develop their
entrepreneurial ventures. Different studies also mention that in developing countries,
such as Bolivia, universities lack ready mentors who can coach new start-ups of staff
and students (Ozgen & Baron, 2007). Our findings reveal that this lack of qualified
mentorship and adequate knowledge of entrepreneurship in Bolivian universities
constitutes an important challenge:
P9: There is not sufficient qualified human capital to accompany nascent entrepreneurs in the
launch of their businesses at universities.
P10: Salaries and incentives to become an entrepreneur are low and not competitive. While
this is important for some students, they also need to be motivated to take the risk of not
becoming employees but entrepreneurs.
Scientific research in the field of entrepreneurship represents the second challenge
that our study has revealed. Only few universities in the country are conducting
scientific research on topics related to entrepreneurship, viz. the Catholic University of
Bolivia and Universidad Mayor de San Simon. This is not surprising, as we find the
overall research skills in Bolivia to be subminimal in general, since most universities
are only now starting to developing entrepreneurship programs. This challenge can be
illustrated with the following quotes:
P5: We find only a few academics involved in research on Social Entrepreneurship in the
country. I don’t know if we can talk about publications, but they are doing some efforts.
P18: We need more innovation to address multiple issues and challenges from our city. There
are several problems here such as transport, health, environmental, etc, and I think this should
be the departing point from universities to collaborate with the government to develop
fundamental research that could be translated into real solutions for our society. Social
Entrepreneurship can become a solution for many of these problems.
The third challenge is related to the overall insufficient integration of basic
entrepreneurship in the curricula. While universities within the entrepreneurial
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on the universities’ supportive role towards social entrepreneurs
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ecosystem are expected to stimulate training opportunities for social entrepreneurs
(Roberts & Eesley, 2011), some of our respondents voice a concern in this regard:
P13: Universities are immersed in their own issues, and sometimes they should think more
about the importance of giving the right education and life tools for their students to succeed.
This is not only coming from the inside of academia, but from the collaboration with companies
or businesses.
P2: Universities nowadays have a very important role within the ecosystem. This is the moment
to officially stablish in all universities a course on entrepreneurship, not only focusing on
profitability and businesses, but also on the social aspect, such as social entrepreneurship.
In general, the challenges mentioned above confirm that Bolivian universities are only
just beginning to generate scientific research and entrepreneurship. Despite this
shortcoming, Bolivian universities have developed various activities in support of
social enterprises, which we will discuss below.
6.2 CSL perspective in support of social entrepreneurs
We present the activities that universities deploy in support of social entrepreneurs, by
focusing on the three main actors in CSL: Students, Faculty and Staff and the
community itself (cf. Table 3).
Beyond IP and rich infrastructure! A Community Service Learning perspective
on the universities’ supportive role towards social entrepreneurs
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CSL Actors
Activities
Students
Select and attend courses in which compulsory assignments are
dedicated to supporting social entrepreneurship;
Promote their experiences in CSL activities (advantages, outcomes) to
engage fellow students;
Establishing students’ organizations to support CSL initiatives;
Submit their best practices to student competitions and awards, to
raise more awareness on the importance of CSL projects in support of
community needs;
Use social media and other means of communication (Facebook,
Instagram, WhatsApp, Student blogs) to publicize the projects in the
community, attract more volunteers and promote results and
experiences;
Volunteer in local events (university level, community level) to support
all different CSL initiatives.
University Staff and Faculty
Establishing an internal formal committee to lead and develop a CSL
framework program at university;
Engage faculty members to update/adapt the curriculum to include
CSL activities;
Organize meetings with students and faculty to reflect upon the
experiences of CSL existing activities;
Participate in conferences and other events related to CSL (national
and international level);
Establish networks of collaboration with local government and
relevant actors of the entrepreneurial ecosystem to create or
strengthen CSL initiatives;
Actively promote and publicize existing CSL programs and results;
Participate in grants or project proposals, involving all different actors
(students, faculty, and community) in activities related to CSL.
Community
Identify local leaders to work with the university (faculty and students)
to design intervention actions through CSL programs;
Participate at different workshops, meetings, and events organized by
the university to discuss and reflect on CSL programs and
opportunities;
Propose their own business and social projects to be subject of
intervention through CSL activities;
Be reciprocal with students; engage them as much as possible in their
community life and activities (Fairs, social events, talks) to create long
term commitment and trust among all different stakeholders;
Provide timely feedback to university members and faculty about their
experience with students, CSL approach and how to further improve
the intervention.
Table 3: CSL lens on HEIs activities in support of SEs
These various activities are discussed in the subsections below.
Beyond IP and rich infrastructure! A Community Service Learning perspective
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6.2.1 Students
Business programs at HEIs in Bolivia (at undergraduate and graduate level) with
compulsory assignments could be used to provide specific support to SEs by means
of business advice, product development, market research and/or marketing
communications support. These student class assignments (compulsory, credit-
bearing) are one of the more prominent opportunities for universities in Bolivia to
support SEs. Assignments can adopt many different forms (reports, essays,
presentations) based on case studies and day-to-day business analysis of local SEs.
The faculty will set the objectives of these assignments at strengthening the social
entrepreneurial project and impact, by using the input of students, their knowledge and
involvement, as available resources during this intervention. Some professors have
also reflected on the importance of using the classroom as a space where students
can debate the different strategies that could address social issues, especially as they
accompany SEs’ initiatives in specific hands-off support. These findings are in
alignment with recent studies on social entrepreneurship (Biggeri et al., 2017) and
have been expressed as follows by our respondents:
P7: Our students need to see other realities beyond poverty and unemployment. They need to
learn how to tackle these problems. We need to incorporate more this subject of social
entrepreneurship not only in the curriculum but also on the level of research to have more
impact on local policies and agenda.
FG1: Universities should also teach in their entrepreneurship courses about resilience,
responsibility and social commitment. This will further lead students to think more responsible
while creating their business and becoming social entrepreneurs.
Students could contribute beyond their direct support of SEs during CSL activities:
they could also advocate CSL initiatives to other students, friends and family,
irrespective of their academic involvement. Students could stimulate the use of
conventional and new technologies (i.e. conventional and social media channels) to
communicate their involvement in CSL programs. Communication increases the
chance that other stakeholders will recognize the needs and offer support to SEs.
Finally, students could volunteer in different activities dedicated to supporting SEs and
their broader ecosystem. This has been observed as a practice where students are
Beyond IP and rich infrastructure! A Community Service Learning perspective
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eager to participate in different fairs, events and other activities organized locally, and
dedicated to promoting projects of SEs, their projects and activities.
6.2.2 University: faculty and staff
With the use of CSL activities in support of SEs, faculty members are encouraging
students to use and apply the knowledge disseminated in their courses. Moreover,
CSL can be utilized by faculty members to conduct research: by collecting relevant
data from their own cases they could realise scientific publications.
Our findings suggest that universities could also leverage their own resources to offer
consultancy services to the private sector and the government. Examples of university
consultancy services are: consulting on business planning, tax returns, and legal
management by specialized academics who also understand the value of the
sustainability principle and the rationale of a business model with social impact
(Cohen, 2006). Our findings suggest that in all cities studied, there is a demand for
such consulting services:
P15: We need sometimes some special skills that we can only find at universities. They
should exploit more their consultancy services to support the growth of our city and expand
the creation of businesses in certain types of areas, for instance, tourism.
P11: We have already requested some support from the university to offer technical assistance
in projects. We benefit from external aid and, our farmers, don’t have the knowledge to deal
with complex applications and grants request, and this is where the university can collaborate
with them. Also, to support them when we receive the resources for machinery or for raw
material. We definitely need to collaborate with universities in that sense.
In the Bolivian context, especially in La Paz and in Tarija, incubators represent a
strategic partner to carry out university CSL programs and activities to support local
entrepreneurs. Universities could contribute to social and economic development by
integrating their services and resources with local incubators (Bruneel, Ratinho,
Clarysse, & Groen, 2012; Roberts & Eesley, 2011). Our findings suggest that
interactions between universities and incubators could be further exploited by
converging students’ efforts, the needs of entrepreneurs and the incubators’ programs
and activities:
Beyond IP and rich infrastructure! A Community Service Learning perspective
on the universities’ supportive role towards social entrepreneurs
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FG2: We are an incubator funded by the government. One of our most important key partners
is the university, as they surround us with different activities (complementary) most of them
being events and fairs. However, we have been in conversations to develop more structural
cooperation for the technical assistance to our entrepreneurs and to strengthen our cooperation
to support the innovation and knowledge transfer within our projects.
P5: We (Universities) participate as jury members of some of the competitions for a local
incubator. However, we also can participate in the coaching of entrepreneurs and other
activities of the program.
Concrete ways of intensifying university-incubator interactions is to involve the faculty
in the decision-making processes of these incubators (advisory boards, the board of
directors), but also by launching joint initiatives such as contests, hackathons,
promotional events, fairs, and consolidating the different programs to guide and coach
social enterprises jointly.
6.2.3 The community
The community is often seen as a beneficiary of the CSL initiatives (Furco, 1996).
They benefit from these interventions by gaining alternative insights into their
community issues. In this sense, SEs obtain from students not only innovative ideas
and reflections on their business approach but also get an opportunity to integrate
solutions with the involvement of several stakeholders from academia and the broader
ecosystem. Universities and the community could find new connections, open
alternative spaces for discussion, connect in new and alternative ways through
students and their proposals, and bring in new resources through the involvement of
other stakeholders in the CSL. These stakeholders are government institutions, NGOs
(national and international), training centres, other entrepreneurs and financial
organizations.
In the Bolivian context, local government plays an important role in dynamizing the
connections between the university and the community. As discussed in the literature,
governments can play a significant role in accelerating (or hindering) the development
of social enterprises through their policies, political environment, incentives, subsidies,
and grants, among other mechanisms (Cohen, 2006). Developing countries have to
deal with barriers of low income, feeble technology and exploitation of the underskilled
workforce, which triggers the informal economy (Prahalad & Hart, 1999). In the case
Beyond IP and rich infrastructure! A Community Service Learning perspective
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of Bolivia, more than 85% of businesses are said to belong to the informal sector. To
diminish this, appropriate government policies should be established to stimulate the
economy, offer more incentives and develop an appropriate business environment
(Galway et al., 2012). Our findings suggest that currently in Bolivia both the public and
private sectors generally tend to work in isolation and/or their efforts to cooperate are
not self-evident.
P15: There are low or inexistent incentives from the central government to support the launch
of new businesses. We have learned for, example, from CAINCO, a program that is executed
in Latin America oriented to support the development of entrepreneurship, with technical
assistance, calls, coaching, etc. We don’t have something like this in the country.
P7: In our ecosystem, we don’t have a local policy, nor a single officer in the local government
(or the in the state government) that is talking or leading the conversation on entrepreneurship
or innovation.
In this respect, this study emphasizes the impact that universities could have in the
decision-making process of the government by adopting new policies and by
implementing more practical programs to foster the entrepreneurial culture within the
local ecosystem.
We have observed that in cities such as Tarija and La Paz, the local governments
have the willingness to collaborate with universities to support SEs (through
workshops, training, coaching, fairs, and events). These programs and initiatives could
be further improved upon by involving more faculty and students. Several of the
interviewees pointed out the importance of networking activities and recognized it as
one of the most influential aspects of the social entrepreneurial development process.
In this sense, all the participants agreed that networking creates access to new funding
opportunities, business development, sales, and visibility in the Bolivian society. The
need for networking is well illustrated in the following quotes:
P18: Social networking is one of the most important aspects. Without working in your network,
the appearance of the society becomes really hard. If you want to work with the government,
you need to know people from the government; if you want to work with the businessmen, you
need to know people from private companies.
P12: I think networking is the most important thing. I have seen, several times, social
entrepreneurs, who could, maybe, have more competences or originality than us, but if they do
not have the right connections that are needed to all type of entrepreneurship, they will not get
very far.
Beyond IP and rich infrastructure! A Community Service Learning perspective
on the universities’ supportive role towards social entrepreneurs
21
Universities are the usual suspects to coordinate and intensify such networking
activities due to their contacts with various stakeholders, irrespective of resource
availability and research orientation.
7. CONCLUSIONS
Our study shows that Bolivian universities play an important role in the supportive
ecosystem of SEs, despite their limited resources, scant fundamental research, and
even inadequate understanding of entrepreneurship. To fulfil that role, universities can
rely on their basic infrastructure and the critical mass of students, faculty and staff
members.
With the involvement of these in the community, universities can create a supportive
environment in the SE ecosystem. Using the theoretical lens of CSL, we have
discussed 18 different activities on three levels (students, faculty & staff and the
community) while indicating that no major resources nor fundamental research are
required to implement them. Our findings are arguably relevant to other contexts,
including Western countries, where universities could substantially increase their
impact on social and conventional entrepreneurship by leveraging students, faculty
and staff. We also argue that future research at entrepreneurial universities should
reach beyond the traditional IP-based technology transfer.
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Appendix 1
INTERVIEW PROTOCOL FOR ENTREPRENEURS
Background information
1) Tell me about yourself (studies, family situation (kids, married, siblings)
profession, etc.)
2. Can you describe your day-to-day routine?
Business model of the (social) entrepreneur how does it work?
1) What product/service is being provided?
2) To whom?
3) How many customers have been served?
4) Where are you providing your products/services?
5) What are the major costs of your activity (materials, labour,…)?
6) How is your activity funded?
7) Do you consider yourself as an entrepreneur?
8) Is there an entrepreneurial culture in (city name)?
Supportive needs of (social) entrepreneurs
9) What are the main problems of your business activity?
10) What type of support do you need as an entrepreneur (financial, networking,
legal, coaching)?
11) What are the organisations or people in Bolivia (San José, Santa Cruz,
Cochabamba, Tarija, La Paz, etc.)?
12) Are you part of a network or a group? Can you describe how that works?
13) What is the role of Universities in support of Social Entrepreneurs?
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INTERVIEW PROTOCOL FOR ORGANIZATIONS SUPPORTING
ENTREPRNEURSHIP
Organization profile
1. Can you describe the mission of your organization? (association, NGO,
government, training, financing, education, other?)
2. Describe your organization: legal status, years of operation, founders, capital, top
management, board of director (if applicable) and other relevant information
about the management of the organization.
Relationship with Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
3. Is there a culture for entrepreneurship in (city) ? What is the most relevant activity
for entrepreneurs in (city)?.
4. What is your relationship with entrepreneurship / entrepreneurs in the your city ?
5. Policy environment for social entrepreneurs:
a) What is the role of the government in supporting entrepreneurship: programs,
needs, or constraints?
b) What is your perception of the policy environment: ease to create new
businesses, taxes, incentives, regulations, grants, other programs?
c) Are there any other institutions or organizations having an influence on the
organization’s environment?
6. What are the principal obstacles in the local market for your organization?
7. Do you consider there is sufficient and qualified human capital to stimulate
entrepreneurship / support entrepreneurs? If not, what type of profiles are
missing?
8. Infrastructure: what is your perception (electricity, telecommunications internet,
water, gas and transport)?.
9. Can you please describe the business environment for your organization?
(competitors, supply chain, informal competition, and other relevant aspects.)
10. Support:
a) What type of support is available to entrepreneurs in the city: networking,
training, mentorship, coaching, legal, funding?
b) Who provides this support?
11. What do you consider is further needed to stimulate entrepreneurship in this city?
12. Who are the relevant entrepreneurs / entrepreneurial organisations in this city ?
13. What is the role of Universities in support of social entrepreneurs?
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