By the Bootstraps: Social Entrepreneurs with Intellectual Disabilities and the Reification of Success
Caldwell, Katherine E.
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Social entrepreneurship is a growing trend for people with intellectual disabilities (ID). This reflects a shift in contemporary policy towards entrepreneurship and self-employment as viable employment option for people with disabilities in general; a strategy which is intended to promote autonomy and reduce dependence on entitlement-based services as well as to reduce employment disparities and stimulate business and job creation. However, it is not well understood what exactly this means for people with ID involved in social entrepreneurial ventures. This dissertation research approached the issue by conducting dyadic interviews to explore how people with ID are participating and supported in social entrepreneurship. This dyadic approach involved conducting in-depth interviews with people with ID participating in social entrepreneurship, and also the person that they identified as being most instrumental in providing support. In exploring the experiences of social entrepreneurs with ID, interviews were structured around three foci of entrepreneurial research – motivation: why they act, management: how they act, and outcomes: what happens when they act. By drawing on Critical Disability Studies literature to interpret social entrepreneurship within a socio-political context, this research expands upon our understanding of “success” in social entrepreneurship in a way that not only contributes to disability theory and entrepreneurship theory, but also broadens our understanding of outcomes in employment for people with ID. Moreover, insight into how social entrepreneurship is being applied for this group can be used to influence social policy.