Citizen Entrepreneurship: A Conceptual Picture of the Inclusion, Integration and Engagement of Citizens in the Entrepreneurial Process

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This conceptual and exploratory article aims to present a rationale for the engagement of citizens with the process and practice of, and research on new civic forms of entrepreneurship. We argue that this form of citizen engagement could enable a better alignment of entrepreneurial initiatives with economic, social and community priorities, and to address issues of global significance of local interest in uncertain environments. To this end, we posit that engaging citizens in the entrepreneurial process could facilitate agency at the collective level of people with their rights, duties and responsibilities, to identify, participate in and govern with existing institutions, in meaningful economic and social activity in defined spatial environments. Our normative understanding of entrepreneurial process involves the creation of business, social and public enterprises, the formation of which is led by entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are of course citizens of specific nation states, but their endeavours do not necessarily warrant the participation of the wider community of citizens in the entrepreneurial process beyond their receiving function as users of goods and services. We consider whether pro-active engagement in a variety of ways, as nurtured in the practice of Citizen Science or Citizen Economics projects, could strengthen the profile and substance of entrepreneurship to resolve critical economic, social and environmental concerns of our times. We use the concept of the ‘commons’ and collective efficacy to argue for an understanding of entrepreneurship and innovation as a social good. We argue that Citizen Entrepreneurship (CE) is able to create new forms of collective organisation and governance, and derive economic and social value by addressing local issues arising from wide-spread phenomena such as climate change, ecological and environmental challenges, inequality, social polarisation, populism, migration and the gradual erosion of democratic institutions. To do so, citizens need to develop capabilities for engagement in the entrepreneurship process, especially when traditional public and market institutions fail to satisfy their existential needs. Indeed, active engagement could lead to the achievement of capabilities for well-being and fulfilling lives which go beyond the acquisition of skills and competencies necessary to pursue a vocation or a career. We refer to and interpret three examples of collective entrepreneurial activity in different urban environments in European countries as models of CE highlighting what we see as a growing trend in the entrepreneurial substance of the ‘urban commons’. We work towards the creation of a conceptual model with which to develop an understanding of a unique formulation of entrepreneurship.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Emerging Economies
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)242-260
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 07.2020

    Research areas

  • Management studies - Citizen entrepreneurship, citizen engagement, social good, collective efficacy, capabilities, urban commons