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Third-age Social Entrepreneurship for Personal Wellbeing

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

Population ageing is a Grand Societal Challenge that has an impact on labour markets, productivity, health, and wellbeing for older individuals and society at large. In this context, third-age entrepreneurship is considered a possible solution by both individuals and institutions. As individuals live longer and healthier lives, yet face shrinking retirement security or workplace age discrimination, engaging in entrepreneurship becomes a more attractive option for older individuals. As population ageing poses significant economic and societal challenges (EEO Review, 2012), institutions are
encouraging third-age entrepreneurship to extend working lives.

A natural home for third-age entrepreneurs might be social ventures. With older individuals attributing more importance to the intrinsic rewards of work, social aspects of work, and feeling valued and involved (see Kanfer & Ackerman, 2004), there are strong arguments why those over 50 may find social entrepreneurship attractive, as exemplified by the high civic and volunteering activity amongst people over 50. The involvement of third-age individuals in social ventures is increasing with 7% of social start-ups led by individuals over 65 (Social Enterprise UK, 2013) and almost a third of social enterprises
having a leadership team member over 65 (Social Enterprise UK, 2015).

This project aims to investigate the effects of engaging in social entrepreneurship on older individuals’ emotional, social, and financial wellbeing. While third-age social entrepreneurship is generally regarded as positive for society, the economy, and individuals, this growing phenomenon is underdeveloped. Beyond a one-size-fits-all approach of examining demographic data and push or pull factors for who engages in either third-age or social entrepreneurship (e.g. Kautonen, 2013; Yitshaki & Kropp, 2015), the expected benefits have not been tested. Overlooking the potential dark side of third-age social entrepreneurship, such as burnout or financial insecurity, is particularly risky given that social ventures are less likely to become operational compared to commercial ventures due to higher levels of complexity and uncertainty (Battilana & Lee, 2014; Renko, 2013). Not only do social ventures struggle to establish legitimacy (Battilana & Dorado, 2010; Galaskiewicz & Barringer, 2012; Pache & Santos,
2010), but this might also be a challenge for third-age social entrepreneurs as older individuals tend not to fit the stereotypes of enterprise and find it difficult to secure support, such as investment or mentors (Kibler et al., 2015). The positive and negative effects of engaging in social entrepreneurship for older individuals’ wellbeing may be moderated by push (i.e. engaging in social entrepreneurship as a necessity) and pull factors (i.e. engaging in social entrepreneurship as an opportunity to retire early or
develop a portfolio career in later life). Examining the effects of engaging in social entrepreneurship on older individuals’ wellbeing is essential to provide responsible support that aids individuals to cope with the possible negative effects, while also contributing to a responsible inclusive entrepreneurship agenda.

This project requires a longitudinal deductive research design.


Battilana, J., & Dorado, S. (2010). Building sustainable hybrid organizations: The case of
commercial microfinance organizations. Academy of Management Journal, 53,

Battilana, J., & Lee, M. (2014). Advancing research on hybrid organizing–Insights from
the study of social enterprises. Academy of Management Annals, 8, 397-441.

EEO Review (2012). Employment Practices to Promote Active Ageing. Available at http://
Galaskiewicz, J., & Barringer, S.N. (2012). Social enterprises and social categories. In B.
Gidron & Y. Hasenfield (Eds.), Social Enterprises: An Organizational Perspective
(47-90). Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.

Kanfer, R., & Ackerman, P. L. (2004). Aging, adult development, and work motivation.
Academy of Management Review, 29, 440-458.

Kautonen, T. (2013). Senior Entrepreneurship. OECD. Available at

Kibler, E., Wainwright, T., Kautonen, T., & Blackburn, R. (2015). Can social exclusion
against “older entrepreneurs” be managed? Journal of Small Business Management, 53,

Pache, A.-C., & Santos, F. (2010). When worlds collide: The internal dynamics of
organizational responses to conflicting institutional logics. Academy of Management
Review, 35, 455-476.

Social Enterprise UK. 2013. The People’s Business: State of Social Enterprise Survey
2013. Available at /uploads/files/2013/07/

Social Enterprise UK. 2015. Leading the World in Social Enterprise: State of Social
Enterprise Survey 2015. Available at
Yitshaki, R., & Kropp, F. (2015). Motivations and opportunity recognition of social
entrepreneurs. Journal of Small Business Management. doi: 10.1111/jsbm.12157.

Related Subjects

How good is research at University of Sheffield in Business and Management Studies?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 34.50

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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