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What's in a name? An inquiry on the cognitive and entrepreneurial profile of the social entrepreneur


  • Cools, E.


  • Vermeulen, S.

    (Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School)


Given the rise of social enterprises, the aim of this study is to get more insight into what typifies social entrepreneurs. Although entrepreneurship research has a long tradition in the study of the individual entrepreneur, there are not many studies on the profile of the social entrepreneur. Our research wants to extend the existing knowledge about who the entrepreneur is by comparing the cognitive and entrepreneurial profile of different types of entrepreneurs. Our inquiry addresses two main questions: (1) Does the cognitive style of social entrepreneurs differ significantly from the profile of commercial entrepreneurs? (2) Is there a significant difference between the entrepreneurial orientation (EO) of commercial and social firms? The data for this research are collected in two phases using two online surveys. For the cognitive styles (as measured with the Cognitive Style Indicator), we find no significant differences between commercial entrepreneurs (n = 152) and social entrepreneurs (n = 41). Looking at the entrepreneurial orientation of commercial and social enterprises, we find that commercial enterprises score significantly higher on EO than social enterprises. Interestingly, significant differences are found for the innovativeness and risk-taking dimensions of EO, but not for the proactiveness dimension. To conclude, we found that the cognitive-based approach is inadequate to capture the behavioral characteristics of social entrepreneurs within their organization. However, in the environment in which they operate, social entrepreneurs seem to behave differently than commercial entrepreneurs. Implications for further research and for practitioners and policy makers are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Cools, E. & Vermeulen, S., 2008. "What's in a name? An inquiry on the cognitive and entrepreneurial profile of the social entrepreneur," Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School Working Paper Series 2008-02, Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School.
  • Handle: RePEc:vlg:vlgwps:2008-02

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. A. E. Fernández Jilberto, 1991. "Introduction," International Journal of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 21(1), pages 3-9, March.
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    cognitive styles; entrepreneurial orientation; types of entrepreneurs; social entrepreneurship;

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