Social Entrepreneurs with Disabilities: Exploring Motivational and Attitudinal Factors

  • Kate Caldwell Postdoctoral Research Fellow Department of Disability & Human Development, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Sarah Parker Harris Director of Graduate Studies, Director of Undergraduate Studies & Associate Professor, Department of Disability & Human Development, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Maija Renko Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship Department of Managerial Studies, University of Illinois at Chicago
Keywords: Disability, Entrepreneurship, Motivation, Attitudes, Qualitative

Abstract

The current economic climate demands more innovative approaches to increasing labor market participation for people with disabilities. Social entrepreneurship offers one alternative pathway to employment. However, little is known about the motivational and attitudinal factors influencing social entrepreneurship for people with disabilities. Using empirical data from focus groups comprised of social entrepreneurs with disabilities, and interviews with key stakeholders working in the fields of policy, disability, and business, this research frames its analysis in the intersection of disability studies and entrepreneurial studies to explore: what motivates people with disabilities to pursue social entrepreneurship, if they continue to encounter attitudinal barriers and discrimination, and whether motivational and attitudinal factors affect their social entrepreneurship. Findings indicate that despite social entrepreneurship having been promoted as a strategy for circumventing employment discrimination, the individuals with disabilities in this research continued to encounter attitudinal barriers and discrimination affecting their employment decisions. Future research should focus on interrogating what might be gained in the spaces where need and opportunity intersect and exploring the extent to which motivations overlap for social entrepreneurs with disabilities in theory, policy, and practice. 

Author Biographies

Kate Caldwell, Postdoctoral Research Fellow Department of Disability & Human Development, University of Illinois at Chicago
Kate Caldwell, is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she received her Doctorate in disability studies and currently works on the Chicagoland Entrepreneurship Education for People with Disabilities project (www.CEEDproject.org). Having also received a Masters' degree from the University of Chicago in interdisciplinary social sciences, she brings this expertise to approaching complex issues where various fields intersect and facilitating dialogue across disciplines. Her research in the area of employment and social policy has focused on the experiences of people with disabilities, and I/DD in particular, in entrepreneurship. This is a topic that allows her to bridge the fields of disability studies and entrepreneurship studies by integrating theoretical advancements that have been made in feminist theory, citizenship theory, and social justice. For two and a half years she served as the Editorial Coordinator for the AAIDD journal, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, and is the co-organizer of the Society for Disability Studies interest group on Work Employment & Society.
Sarah Parker Harris, Director of Graduate Studies, Director of Undergraduate Studies & Associate Professor, Department of Disability & Human Development, University of Illinois at Chicago

Sarah Parker Harris is an Associate Professor and the Director of Graduate and Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Disability and Human Development. Dr. Parker Harris received her PhD in Sociology & Social Policy from the University of Sydney in Australia. Her interdisciplinary areas of scholarship include Disability Studies, Social Policy, and Sociology. She is experienced in program evaluation, mixed method systematic review, social policy analysis, and qualitative research design and analysis. Her research focuses on comparative and national disability policy and legislation in areas of civil/human rights, welfare to work and employment, entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship for people with disabilities, and theories of social justice and citizenship. Dr. Parker Harris has published and presented widely in areas of disability policy and law, entrepreneurship and disability, welfare-to-work, and international human rights. She is co-author of Disability Through the Lifecourse (SAGE Reference Series on Disability). She teaches graduate courses in theories and perspectives of disability studies, and disability policies and legislation.

Maija Renko, Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship Department of Managerial Studies, University of Illinois at Chicago
Maija is an Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She teaches entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship classes in the undergraduate business and MBA programs of UIC’s College of Business Administration. Her research and teaching interests are focused on the early stages of the entrepreneurial process (entrepreneurial motivation, opportunities and nascent entrepreneurship), social entrepreneurship, and technology entrepreneurship. Her research has been published in management and entrepreneurship journals, including Journal of Management, Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice, Journal of Small Business Management, Management Decision, Small Business Economics and Business Horizons.
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