In-Group Collectivism versus Institutional Collectivism: a case Study of Social Entrepreneurship Development in Taiwan

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In-Group Collectivism versus Institutional Collectivism: A Case Study of Social Entrepreneurship Development in Taiwan
Ming-Rea Kao, National Sun Yat-sen University; Chang-Yu Huang, Department of Business Management, National Sun Yat-Sen University
Social entrepreneurship research has gained increased attentions for several decades. In common with several scholars (Austin, Stevenson & Wei-Skillern, 2006; Dacin, Dacin & Matear, 2010; Martin & Osberg 2007; Roper & Cheney, 2005), we position social entrepreneurship research within the conceptual domain of entrepreneurship, especially concerning the nature of entrepreneurship addressed originally by Schumpeter (Shockley & Frank, 2011; Young & Kerlin, 2010).

Furthermore, as Defourny and Nyssens (2010: 39-44, 49) analyze historically how the conceptualizations of social entrepreneurship in Europe and the United States have evolved, they suggest that “the distinctive conceptions of social enterprise and social entrepreneurship are deeply rooted in the social, economic, political and cultural contexts in which these organizations emerge.” Following this suggestion, in this paper we intend to explore the development of social entrepreneurship through a case study in Taiwan, especially with regard to the broadly-defined institutional environment, namely the distinctive social context of Taiwan. By the meaning of institutional environment, we adopt Scott’s general definition of institution as “social forms exhibiting high resilience” and “composed of cultural-cognitive, normative and regulative elements” (2002: 60-61).

Based on the presupposition: Each society has its own institutional conditions and provides the distinctive environment for social entrepreneurship, our research question is: As a society with tradition of family values in East Asia, what is the role of family in social entrepreneurship with regard to the distinctive social context of Taiwan?

To take the role of family into account, there are considerable observations mentioned the salience of family values for societies in East Asia. We start from Fukuyama. In his influential book Trust: the Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity (1995), Fukuyama takes Taiwan and South Korea as the examples of some kind of “familistic societies.” To be compared, Japan and Germany are showed as some kind of group-oriented societies. Furthermore, Steier (2009: 518) addresses “familial capitalism” to characterize some economies in East Asia as “a strong horizontal, segmented society wherein the core of political and economic networks is constituted by personal ties among individuals related to each other through kinship.” Our interest is that if the salience of family value could be seen as one of the characteristic of the societies in East Asia, e.g., Taiwan, what is its role in the area of social entrepreneurship? Moreover, considering social benefit and/or social good of social entrepreneurship, is it possible for the so-called familial societies to extend trust from family-based collectivism (i.e., in-group collectivism) to institutional-based collectivism (i.e., institutional collectivism) through social entrepreneurship process?

To explore these questions, the creation and evolution of a third sector organization, formed in 2004 and has just experienced organizational change in the end of 2010, are recorded and analyzed as the case study since December 2007. Qualitative data was collected from multiple sources: firsthand data was collected through site visits and observations, information exchanges and discussions by telephone, email and face-to-face interactions with one of the founder, the manager and professional workers who provide direct social service; secondary data was collected from published materials, website information, and news reports.

Based on the 3-year-tracing study of a 7-year-old third sector organization, we locate the emergence of social entrepreneurship in the local context by highlighting the salient role of family in Taiwan. Moreover, through the analysis of ongoing social entrepreneurial processes of the case, the conflict of social entrepreneurship development between two forms of collectivism – in-group collectivism versus institutional-collectivism – is discussed.


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