Gordon Shockley

Research Friday: The Functions of Government in Social Entrepreneurship

posted by
Gordon Shockley, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
ASU School of Community
Resources & Development

Welcome to Research Friday! For this week’s post, we welcome Dr. Gordon Shockley, who describes the work he and colleague Peter Frank are doing on social innovation. As always, we welcome your comments, feedback and suggestions!

Government has a rich legacy of social entrepreneurship. In the 20th century, it orchestrated large-scale social change when it had the capacity — the resources, expertise, and available political, social, and economic institutions — to do so. Consider some examples from American policy history. In response to the Great Depression in the 1930s, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration enacted the nation’s first-ever social policy with the programs of the Social Security Act. The U.S. federal government’s social innovations reached new heights with President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society programs of the 1960s. The U.S., as well as the national governments of much of the developed world, robustly practices variants of high-capacity governmental social innovation today, such as the myriad programs countering the global Great Recession.

There is also a distinguished history of social innovation in the U.S. from the private, non-governmental civil society partnering with government. For example, many of the reforms from the Progressive Era in the early 20th century depended on action from both government and charities. As Camilla Stivers (2000) puts it, “Women reformers recognized that private philanthropy was ill equipped to cope with the scale and seriousness of urban problems; charities had neither the public authority nor the necessary financial resources” (p. 93).