Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 154, Issue 3, pp 605–630 | Cite as

Social Entrepreneurship in Non-munificent Institutional Environments and Implications for Institutional Work: Insights from China

  • Babita Bhatt
  • Israr QureshiEmail author
  • Suhaib Riaz
Original Paper


We investigate the research question: Why are there very few social enterprises in China? Our findings unpack four types of institutional challenges to social entrepreneurship, as perceived by social entrepreneurs: norms of a strong role for government; misunderstood or unknown role for social enterprises; non-supportive rules and regulations; and lack of socio-cultural values and beliefs in support of social goals. We contribute to the literature on social enterprises by showing how an institutional environment may be “non-munificent,” i.e., non-supportive for the existence of social enterprises and their goals, and we thus address the need for more attention to the institutional environment in which social entrepreneurship takes place. Further, by using Q-methodology on 42 social entrepreneurs along with illustrative qualitative data from interviews, we address the need to go beyond anecdotal case studies and introduce methodological plurality in social entrepreneurship research. Finally, our findings on institutional challenges provide us with an opportunity to discuss how social entrepreneurs may engage with purposive activities to overcome such challenges, leading us to initiate a conversation between the social entrepreneurship and institutional work literatures.


China Institutional environment Institutional work Social enterprise Social entrepreneurship Q-methodology Qualitative study 



This research was supported by Research Grants Council of Hong Kong (GRF Grant: PolyU 548210 and PolyU 549211).


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of International RelationsIE UniversityMadridSpain
  2. 2.Department of Entrepreneurship, Department of Information Systems and TechnologyIE Business SchoolMadridSpain
  3. 3.College of ManagementUniversity of MassachusettsBostonUSA

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