Kitty Parker Brooks
In grappling with the concept of ‘transformative entrepreneurship’ I have consistently found myself returning to two key questions: What do we actually mean by ‘transformative’? What is needed for an enterprise to be transformational?
Changes and fluctuations are an inevitable fact of human society and entrepreneurship plays a key role within this. There are countless examples of entrepreneurs identifying needs and developing solutions to them. Increasingly, these enterprises are built with social or environmental agendas. The diverse missions and methods of these social enterprises challenge the dominance of profit maximisation and traditional views of what it means to be an entrepreneur. Yet transformative entrepreneurship seeks to do more than challenge; it is concerned with delivering the systemic change needed to meet significant social and environmental challenges.
The current COVID-19 pandemic has crystalised the need for scalable or replicable solutions that can be implemented locally and globally to tackle the numerous global crises we are currently facing. Implicit within these notions of ‘scale’ and ‘implementation’ is an assumption of extensive mobilisation – a substantial level of ‘buy in’ from a significant number of individuals and stakeholders is required to fundamentally shift the structures in which we operate. The combination of scale, implementation and mobilisation is integral, if not exhaustive, to understanding ‘transformative entrepreneurship’; it is this combination that converts an innovative concept, product or process into something that delivers fundamental systems change.
To illustrate, vaccinations have transformed the way we tackle various health crises. There are very early accounts of inoculation techniques being used to combat disease, but in the last century the number of vaccines available and the scale with which they are available has fundamentally changed the landscape of global healthcare. The most obvious example of this is the near eradication of polio, which has required a combination of:
It is the combination of these elements that has made it possible for vaccination programs to be implemented at a transformative scale. However, a growing rejection of the legitimacy of vaccination programs and the erosion of public confidence threatens to unravel the transformative effects that these programs have had in tackling various global health crises.
The example above shows how important it is to develop trust and access within localised communities in order to enable the widespread implementation and mobilisation required for delivering systemic change. As we attempt to rebuild post-pandemic, we must address this need for collective social trust because without it, it will be impossible to unlock the scale needed for substantive, transformational change. Afterall, it is the belief and actions of billions of individuals globally that has enabled the near eradication of polio. Mass mobilisation alone is not sufficient for transformative entrepreneurship, but it is absolutely vital to the development of something ‘transformative’.
Burki, T., 2020. The online anti-vaccine movement in the age of COVID-19. The Lancet Digital Health, [online] 2(10), pp.e504-e505. Available at: <; [Accessed 10 January 2021].
Ferraro, F., Etzion, D. and Gehman, J., 2015. Tackling Grand Challenges Pragmatically: Robust Action Revisited. Organization Studies, [online] 36(3), pp.363-390. Available at: <; [Accessed 18 December 2020].
Zahra, S., Gedajlovic, E., Neubaum, D. and Shulman, J., 2009. A typology of social entrepreneurs: Motives, search processes and ethical challenges. Journal of Business Venturing, [online] 24(5), pp.519-532. Available at: <; [Accessed 18 December 2020].
Kitty Parker Brooks is a Master's student in MSc Global Prosperity at the Institute for Global Prosperity
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