Ambiguous roles of intermediaries in social entrepreneurship: The case of social innovation system in South Korea

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Social entrepreneurship and ventures play increasingly important roles in social innovation to tackle wicked problems. Given that social ventures not only have limited resources but are also a relatively new form of entrepreneurship, they often require help of intermediary organizations, actors in social entrepreneurship that aim to deliver some level of social innovation in the context they work in and assist social entrepreneurs to build their capabilities and diffuse innovative ideas. These intermediaries also play various roles in supporting the development and growth of social business ecosystems by linking and mediating different actors to build a community of social innovators. While some of these are typical roles of accelerators or incubators in technological entrepreneurial systems, other mediating and networking roles are closer to those of intermediary organizations in the social economy. Due to the fragmented nature of the studies that investigate these issues from a particular theoretical and practical perspective, there is a lack of systematic and comprehensive analysis of the diverse roles of intermediaries in broader innovation ecosystems. To address this gap, this study adopts the innovation systems approach and examines the various “ambiguous” roles of intermediary organizations in support of social entrepreneurship. By highlighting the particular functions attributable to the nature and characteristics of social business, this study also suggests how technology can facilitate the development of sustainable social innovation systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number121324
JournalTechnological Forecasting and Social Change
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Feb

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Yonsei University Research Grant of 2019 ( 2019–22–0213 ) and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) grant funded by the Korean government (MSIT) ( NRF-2021R1G1A1004699 ). The authors would like to thank all interviewees for sharing their knowledge and experiences, which provided invaluable insights into the research. The data collection and interview transcription assistance provided by undergraduate research assistants are also greatly appreciated.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Applied Psychology
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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