Skip to main content
Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Narrating the 'social': the evolving stories of Pakistan's social entrepreneurs

Cunningham, James; Xiong, Lin; Hashim, Hina; Yunis, Mohammad Sohail


Social enterprises are often characterized by the vision and drive of an individual founder. We challenge this by taking inspiration from Alistair R. Anderson's arguments that social entrepreneurship is better understood as enacted within a social context. We move beyond linear conceptualizations to consider a more nuanced, contextually informed picture, where understandings of what it is to be 'social' in one's entrepreneuring are created at the interaction of the individual and their situation. A narrative approach is used to analyse 25 life stories used by social entrepreneurs in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa region of Pakistan, an area of social transition. We access how these entrepreneurs give meaning to the 'social' aspects of what they do. Our findings present a multifaceted character, defined by their responses to changing social contexts. This is manifest in entrepreneurial practice, where we have a vacillation between acts of social rebellion and an enterprising organization of benevolence, evolving in a social context which changes with and, in part, because of our social entrepreneurs. We move beyond definitional characteristics and closer to a theory of practice, by considering how social entrepreneurs interact with changing social demands and adapt their activities accordingly.


social entrepreneurship; narratives; developing economy; Pakistan; context

Published in

Entrepreneurship and Regional Development
2022, volume: 34, number: 7-8, pages: 668-685

Authors' information

Cunningham, James
Robert Gordon University (RGU)
Xiong, Lin
Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Economics
Yunis, Mohammad Sohail
Institute of Management Sciences (IMSciences)

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG8 Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

UKÄ Subject classification

Sociology (excluding Social work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)

Publication Identifiers


URI (permanent link to this page)