Social Entrepreneurship in Social Work: Opportunities for Success

Hani Nouman, Ram A. Cnaan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Due to the increasing complexity of social problems, social workers need to adopt an innovation and entrepreneurship lens to create innovative long-term solutions for diverse and vulnerable populations. We sought to understand what makes social work entrepreneurs innovative and successful. Method: We conducted in-depth semistructured interviews with 18 social workers in Israel who successfully established social services to tackle social problems in innovative, creative ways. Results: Interaction between the individual and their ability to seize changes in their sociopolitical environment promotes social entrepreneurship. Social workers need to have competencies, skills, and motives to seek out social change. However, these personal characteristics are insufficient in the absence of sociopolitical opportunities, including (a) changes in policymakers’ perceptions regarding ways to deal with social problems, (b) changes among political policy actors or appointment of new key decision-makers, and (c) formative events in the relevant environment. Conclusions: Successful social entrepreneurship in social work depends on competencies, skills, and motives to seek out social change as well as the ability of social workers to identify and seize opportunities in their sociopolitical environment within aspecific time frame. We recommend inclusion of social entrepreneurship in social work education, including the development of critical thinking, commitment to change, and identification of opportunities.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)27-46
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of the Society for Social Work and Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2022


  • Opportunities
  • Social activism
  • Social entrepreneurship
  • Social innovation
  • Social workers

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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