“Mobilize your skills to meet social challenges”
Updated on Dec 3, 2014 - 3:56 p.m. IST by Bedasree Das

“There is a dire need to move beyond narratives of the heroic social entrepreneur to analyse social enterprises as organisations in the same light as charities or mainstream businesses,” feels Dr. Pathik Pathak, lecturer in Sociology and Director of Social Entrepreneurship at University of Southampton.

The author of the Future of Multicultural Britain, Dr. Pathak is a social innovator, and is currently working on the development of a model for a city-wide social investment market and an equity crowd-funding platform for student enterprises.

In this Interview with Careers360, Dr Pathak explores the career opportunities in social entrepreneurship and the research potential in the field.

Below are the edited excerpts

Q: Can you highlight the career opportunities in social entrepreneurship?

A: There are many opportunities for people who want to enter the field of social entrepreneurship, not only in India but also around the world. There are now many start-up funders to help kick-start ideas, like Unltd India and Dasra, together with platforms to provide mentorship to new entrepreneurs. There is also a growing ecosystem being developed around social entrepreneurship. This includes incubation, impact investment and research.

Q: What according to you are the factors that a student should consider before embarking in social entrepreneurship? Please share your own experience with us.

A: The main thing is to identify an issue that you are passionate about. You must have a strong sense of mission and an idea of what change would look like to you. You should think about how you can leverage your university education. For example, a number of engineers have started to apply their skills to find engineering solutions to entrenched social problems such as solar lighting or sanitation. Similarly, a lot of social science students have a deep understanding of global health issues. Try and mobilize whatever knowledge and skills you’ve gained to meet your social challenge.

Q: What kind of research avenues can one explore in this field?

A: There is so much research that could be done. Firstly, there is the public policy context: how should governments support social entrepreneurship? There are also sociological questions: what type of people become social entrepreneurs, and what are the class/gender dimensions? There is also a growing field of studies, which asks critical questions of social entrepreneurship and wider questions of political economy.

Q: In one of your articles, you wrote about social entrepreneurship being analysed only at an individual level while organizational behavior stand under-researched. Please elaborate on how academic research can be directed towards oraganisational behavior?

A: There is a dire need to move beyond narratives of the heroic social entrepreneur to anaylse social enterprises as organisations in the same light as charities or mainstream businesses. We need a much deeper understanding of organizational issues such as constructions of failure in the social enterprise sector, which is the thesis topic for one of my PhD students.

Q: As a director of Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Southampton, what is it that you think attracts a student most towards this course?

A: Firstly, we offer students the opportunity to understand social enterprise in context in the UK, but also internationally, in India and China. We are also committed to experiential learning, and we offer students a pathway to design their own social enterprise and to fund its development through financial and business support. Our approach to social entrepreneurship is also research-led, so we provide opportunities to students to engage with our research to help design solutions.

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