Why do some social enterprises flourish in Vietnam? : an integration of pivotal social entrepreneur and ecosystem factors : a thesis by publication presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand

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Social enterprises have been promoted by the United Nations Development Programme as a new model for poverty reduction through targeted employment creation and support for human services (social, educational, and health) in marginalised communities. Social enterprises in Vietnam, a low- to middle-income country, have become a significant but as yet under researched aspect of the country’s plan to meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to eradicate poverty. The key focus of this research is to explore potential multilevel interactions of social entrepreneurs (micro-level), social enterprises (meso-level) and ecosystems (macro-level) in fostering positive social impacts and contributing to the country’s SDG achievements. The thesis employs a mixed-method approach comprised of a quantitative survey (Study 1, N =352) and one-off go-along interviews (Study 2, N = 20) with social entrepreneurs. Study 1 develops and explores an integrative model predicting that Vietnamese social enterprises would enhance social enterprise performance (both commercial and social) through a combination of social entrepreneur attributes (e.g., social identity) and ecosystem supports, including networking, training, mentoring, and funding. Unexpectedly, ecosystem supports factored into quantity and quality, whilst performance factored into commercial and social. The quantity of ecosystem supports directly predicted commercial performance, but the quality of them predicted social performance. The material amount of support boosted profits, while the quality of support predicted social performance. Hence commercial and social performance were directly supported by different aspects of the same ecosystem. Turning to social entrepreneur attributes, self-interest, risk innovation and proactiveness each predicted commercial performance, while risk innovation was the only, and strong, predictor of social performance. No mediating roles were evident for ecosystem supports, meaning they could be helpful, but were not necessarily pivotal. However, ecosystem supports did show moderate links between social entrepreneurs and performance. These moderations were confined to commercial performance. Both types of support interact with risk innovation and communitarian identity to predict commercial performance. Surprisingly however, the ecosystem supports sampled in this survey study have no apparent moderating roles, on links between social entrepreneurs and social performance. Study 2 probed this surprising gap further, through interviews with a subset of the sample from study 1. The interviews offered qualitative evidence indicating the importance of the multilevel fit between (1) social entrepreneur leadership, (2) core societal and traditional Vietnamese village values, and (3) the structure and functioning of their enterprises. The mutual fit of these elements appears to be foundational to the achievement of social enterprises’ prosocial missions to secure a better quality of life for disadvantaged groups and more sustainable community development. Across both studies 1 and 2, this research reveals a symbiotic relationship between social entrepreneurs, social enterprises, and the ecosystem. The shape, character and function of social entrepreneurship is influenced by the ecosystem via supports which can enhance the ability of these organisations to realise their prosocial missions to create and sustain decent livelihoods (SDG-8) and reduce poverty (SDG-1). At the same time, successful social enterprises also draw on traditional village values to perform socially (redefined as prosocial efficiency). This prosocial efficiency created by social enterprises then has a positive influence on the ecosystem, which in turn promotes further social entrepreneurial development. This thesis foregrounds the importance of cultural considerations and multilevel partnerships (SDG-17) between relevant stakeholders to promote the efficacy of social entrepreneurship in Vietnam, and possibly other emergent economies. Findings from this research have been fed back into the refinement of social enterprise support system in Vietnam, in response to demand from social entrepreneurs themselves. Hence the thesis concludes with an evidence-based policy brief, as requested by leading social entrepreneurs in Vietnam. This brief focuses on the role of traditional Vietnamese village values in boosting enterprising young people’s entry into social entrepreneurship in Vietnam.
Social entrepreneurship, Businesspeople, Sustainable development, Vietnam, social entrepreneurs, social impact, ecosystem fit, culture