Thanks Joseph. This is quite an important question, so I thought I’d reply as a new post.
Yes I do think promoting entrepreneurship is about promoting a set of positive personal qualities. You identify initiative, responsibility and risk-taking. I agree with these. (Particularly I think we must try to counter what sometimes appears to be a culture in the UK that is increasingly and absurdly risk averse and scare-mongering.) I would also add leadership, analysis, ‘drive’, and vision.
I think an entrepreneur is aware of his situation, observes a demand or need, and transfers resources to more effectively supply that demand or meet that need. All adults are at times required to act entrepreneurially. The qualities required for this I suggest are vital for the transformation from childhood to adulthood and for fulfillment. I would like to discuss the question of what ‘fulfillment’ is, particularly in relation to recent debates on teaching ‘happiness’, but I suspect it involves taking personal responsibility and meeting and overcoming challenges. I suspect many aspects of rites of passage promote qualities we might call entrepreneurial.
Promoting an entrepreneurial attitude is about promoting the ability to solve problems. Successful entrepreneurs must take responsibility, but are empowered. I would like to pursue a consideration of the extent to which promoting entrepreneurship may tie in with the promotion of actively involved citizens, particularly at the level of community empowerment and local democracy.
Promoting an entrepreneurial attitude is not about promoting business education. An entrepreneurial attitude is not bound with the profit motive. Indeed social entrepreneurship is the application of entrepreneurial qualities to achieve a social goal. One of the exciting things about social entrepreneurship is its potential to solve social ills that neither the state nor the market have been able to. Yes, Florence Nightingale was a social entrepreneur. And there is nothing wrong with ‘backdated descriptions’. I don’t think social entrepreneurship is a question of excusing business or ‘lumping together’ community activists. Rather, it is a way of defining, in order to support, a certain type of agent for positive social change.
Social entrepreneurship is perhaps part of a broader movement that recognizes three things. Firstly that the state cannot solve all social problems, secondly that economics is not a value judgment: it simply ‘is’ (e.g. that supply increases when there is more demand is not morally right or wrong: it is a law), and thirdly that when business does not recognize the true cost of its externalities the market proves unjust and is ineffective in solving social ills. The definition you provided I think illustrates this and gives some insight into the exciting potential of social entrepreneurship. I think I am right in saying that social entrepreneurship is currently internationally the fastest growing sector (I’m not sure by what measurement, but Bornstein’s ‘How to Change the World’ gives some interesting information, see also http://www.ashoka.org) . It is neither ‘devious’ nor insubstantial as you suggest, but the name given to a growing group of driven individuals with a sense of social justice, working in the real world.
The point, I think, is not only that entrepreneurship (particularly social entrepreneurship) is a phenomenon that the UK education system would do well to respond to, but that the promotion of entrepreneurship in schools is the promotion of qualities that lead to empowered and fulfilled adults.