Purpose: Israel is characterised by economic growth that is accompanied not only by prosperity but also by increasing poverty. This paper aims to conceptualise the role of Israel’s social enterprises in reducing the gap between prosperous and disadvantaged populations.
Design/methodology/approach: This qualitative study is based on 23 in-depth interviews. It makes use of a theoretical framework that incorporates two elements: cosmopolitanism and social entrepreneurship. Cosmopolitanism, together with government policies that aim to develop free enterprise and international trade, support entrepreneurship and advance education, accompanies and facilitates prosperity. Whilst prosperity increases inequality, social entrepreneurship develops as a tool to mitigate the side effects of economic growth in the form of the increasing gap between the rich and the poor.
Findings: This paper argues that the principal reason why the gap evolved and is increasing is in the discrepancy between rapidly rising requirements presented by the innovation-focussed economy and the workers’ skills. Based on interviews with social entrepreneurs who are (co)founders or managers of businesses with a social purpose, findings show that the gap between prosperity and social deprivation could be bridged by increasing workers’ capacity to align their skills with employers’ requirements, which is the area to which Israeli social enterprises contribute.
Originality/value: The paper argues that cosmopolitan orientation is one of the contributors to economic growth and innovation, whilst prosperity increases the gap between high- and low-income groups. The paper contributes to the body of knowledge about social entrepreneurs by applying the framework that makes use of cosmopolitanism as an important driver of Israeli social entrepreneurship, which helps to explain the role that social business enterprises play in reducing the gap between prosperous and disadvantaged populations.
- Social enterprise