The nature of mentoring in the social entrepreneurial field : An exploratory study of the South African context
Abstract: The importance of social entrepreneurship has been growing for the last 3 decades and is recently accelerating. South Africa presents one of the most mature social entrepreneurial sectors among developing countries and the magnitude of its impact has become critical to national economic growth and society as a whole. Many roles have risen through the spreading of this particular way of conceiving business, the role of mentors being a particularly meaningful one. Mentoring is usually related to the difficulties social entrepreneurs and operators within the field have in dealing with the variables present in a free market. Most studies concerning mentoring have been focused on business organizations or entrepreneurs. Literature approaches various interesting themes within these two contexts that can help as a guide to explore the nature of mentoring in the social entrepreneurial field. This study puts its focus on the nature of mentoring in the sole social entrepreneurial field as it is understood by its prime actors: the mentors. In doing so it adopts a qualitative approach characterised by semi-structured and open ended interviews with eight experienced mentors from as many different organizations. The final results indicate that differences with the business sector are not extreme and the two fields often intertwine, with many beneficial outcomes for the social sector. However, they also illustrate that there are some aspects very specific to the sole social entrepreneurial field. Among those are the stronger sensibility toward others, the energy infused, the type of relationships, the unique motivations and a broader reach of outcomes for the mentoring activity itself. All these aspects lead mentoring in the social entrepreneurial field not only to be a useful phenomenon for involved entrepreneurs, but potentially an activity spreading its beneficial consequences to entire communities.
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