A Case for Social Enterprise: At the Bottom of the Top of the Pyramid

By Martin Brueckner, Sally Paulin, Jenna Davis and Samir Chatterjee.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The bottom of the pyramid (BoP) approach popularised by Prahalad and Hart (2002), calls for the engagement of business with the bottom segment of the global income pyramid, and has attracted considerable attention and debate. The BoP lens is applied chiefly to communities experiencing ‘extreme poverty’ in low income countries with little reference to the growing number of people living in ‘relative poverty’ in high income countries.
For the purpose of stimulating academic debate this paper seeks to explore the role of the so-called fourth sector, a domain for hybrid business ventures of social (and, in the case of this paper, Indigenous) entrepreneurs, at what we refer to as ‘the bottom at the top of the income pyramid’ in Australia. Using examples of Indigenous and social entrepreneurship within disadvantaged communities, we seek to highlight the scope for fourth sector enterprises at the lower end of the income spectrum within developed countries. It is suggested that the business models found within the fourth sector offer promising, alternative approaches for addressing the economic as well as social and cultural needs of those living on the fringes of today’s increasingly fragmented high-income societies.

Keywords: Social Enterprise, Indigenous Enterprise, Bottom of The Pyramid, Social Sustainability, NGOs, MNCs, For-Profit, Non-Profit

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp.149-166. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.035MB).

Dr. Martin Brueckner

Lecturer, School of Management, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Martin Brueckner is a social ecologist, working as a lecturer with the School of Management at Curtin University of Technology in the area of sustainability management. In this capacity he teaches both undergraduate and postgraduate classes on environmental issues in business. His teaching experience ranges across different subject and disciplinary areas, including environmental and resource economics, sustainable production and consumption as well as sociology of environmentalism, valuing the environment and social influences on learning. Martin's key research interests are in the area of industry-community relations and sustainable communities as well as environmental policy-making and regional sustainability. Martin’s work focuses on questions of social justice, corporate governance and corporate social responsibility

Sally Paulin

PhD Researcher/Lecturer, Institute for Sustainability and Technology Policy, Murdoch University, MURDOCH, Western Australia, Australia

Sally Paulin is a lecturer with the Institute for Sustainability and Technology Policy at Murdoch University. Her research interest is in the area of social sustainability with special emphasis on community engagement and participation as well as volunteering and the experiences of community groups. Sally is also interested in the areas of sustainable waste management and resource recovery, sustainable agriculture and the importance of acknowledging lay and local knowledge when looking for solutions to complex problems.

Jenna Davis

Associate Lecturer, School of Management, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Originally from Texas but residing in Western Australia as part of a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship, Jenna Davis is an associate lecturer with the School of Management at Curtin University of Technology. While at Curtin, she conducted research on social enterprise in Western Australia. Jenna has lectured in the subjects of Management and Strategic Management as well as worked in both not-for-profit and private enterprise. Her key research interest is in the area of social enterprise, seeking solutions that can holistically improve the human condition.

Prof. Samir Chatterjee

Professor, School of Management, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Professor Samir Ranjan Chatterjee has been involved in management education in Australia and Asia for more than three decades and is recognised as one of the pioneers in the area of Curtin University’s international strategy development and alliance building. Besides his home base at Curtin University in Australia, he has lived and worked for extended periods in India, China, Japan, Singapore, Mongolia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, USA, UK, France and former Yugoslavia. During 1994-95, he lived in Mongolia for a year as the United Nations Adviser in the development of management education in the country. Following the assignment, he has worked extensively in Mongolia until 1999 as Director of a number of large capacity building programs funded by the United Nations Development Program. Recently, he was appointed by the Asian Development Bank to serve as the international expert reviewer of the implementation progress of a higher education sector reform project in Indonesia


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