This doctoral project intends to advance our understanding of the potential of social entrepreneurship (SE) towards sustainable development and community empowerment. While research studies linking social entrepreneurship and sustainable development (SD) are steadily increasing, in-depth and holistic investigation of if and how social entrepreneurship (SE), contributes to SD and community empowerment seems to be lacking. Therefore, the central question of this doctoral thesis is as follows: What is the potential of social entrepreneurship in contributing towards SD and community empowerment in developing economies?? To address this question, three papers were developed. Drawing on a systematic literature review and applying alternative development theory, the first paper set the disciplinary context for SE and sustainable development by identifying, synthesizing and critically evaluating the extant literature. The aim is to interrogate how and to what extent social entrepreneurship contribute to the seventeen United National Sustainable Development Goals. Paper one reveals variation of engagement by SE across all seventeen SDGs. SE seems to pay more attention on addressing problems related to SD1, SDG8, SDG3 and SDG17. The focus on SDG17 in particular reveals the importance of working in partnerships among all partners and across sectors by applying both bottom-up and top-down development approaches. These results have inspired the second paper, which aims to generate an empirically-informed picture of the extent to which SE empowers communities. The second and third paper use the context of Tanzania due to the emerging of social enterprises scholarship and practice, which has increasingly been applied in tourism sector, which is one of the key contributors to the country’s GDP. Drawing on 56 qualitative interviews in Tanzania, the second paper reveals that community empowerment is both a process and outcome in multidimensional view. Connected to these community dynamics and social inclusion function of SE, the third paper has taken the study forward by investigating the ability of SE as a vehicle for women empowerment and gender equality. The findings demonstrate there are some issues that need to be examined in-depth and that entail policy/practical interventions, particularly in developing country contexts, such as Tanzania. To enhance the capacity of SE in empowering women, a balanced approach of collaborations and partnerships among actors are essential. The key contribution of the thesis to academic knowledge lies in its ability to advance our understanding on the instrumentality of SE in empowering and enhancing the wellbeing of communities in different domains of sustainable development. Overall, the thesis provides important theoretical and practical implications for academics, policy-makers and other stakeholders in the domains of sustainable development and social entrepreneurship in general.
Keywords: Sustainable development, Social entrepreneurship, Community empowerment