Social Entrepreneurship to solve the Fire Problem

Public Sector Lacks Critical Competencies — Turns to Social Business Models

Social Entrepreneurship to solve the Fire Problem

Social Entrepreneurs partner with fire services to propose sustainable social business models to solve rapidly increasing fire safety problems.

Fire is crucial to the development of human society, and it has become an important part of human civilization. Among different types of disasters, fire constitutes a significant threat to life and property in urban and rural areas. Fires are the accidents which occur most frequently, whose causes are the most diverse and which require intervention methods and techniques adapted to the conditions and needs of each incident. There is a better way forward with social business models.

With adequate fire prevention, most of the fires nowadays are preventable. Fire prevention, and life safety education, can be defined as a system for reducing poverty and providing citizens with activities that raise awareness of fire risks by analyzing patterns of fire causal factors to achieve a reduction in fire incidence within the constraints of budgeted resources.


Poverty, new dynamic lifestyles, new materials, community, and fire brigade budget costs increase fire risk to communities. Lower income families are more likely to live in older, wood frame housing; less likely to have working smoke alarms; less likely to have a family escape plan and to practice it; more likely to use less safe alternative heating sources; more likely to have malfunctioning wiring or appliances, and more likely to have barriers to escape or rescue.

Traditional Approaches Failing

It seems that as the number of fires, fire deaths and casualties is increasing on the global scale, fires are an alarming global concern and a potential social problem. It seems that all existing methods have failed. From the broad perspective, we have three sectors potentially dealing with fire safety problems: private sector, public sector, and the non-profit sector. Traditionally, each of the three sectors has maintained the distinct roles and approaches —with the private sector focused on profitable markets, the public sector solving market failures, and the non-profit sector engaging citizens in meeting societal needs.

Shrinking Resources

Since the 1990s, several trends have reduced these distinctions, increasingly blurring the social and economic roles that businesses, government agencies, and nonprofits are playing. Governments are stepping out and deregulating the codes, closing fire departments. The private sector is shrinking resources and is forgetting on the important role of fire prevention when seeking for competitiveness. And the nonprofit sector is constantly facing with funding problems and increased social problems such as crime and opioid crisis, poor access to healthcare facilities and nevertheless poverty.

New unavoidable trends are increasingly blurring the social and economic roles that businesses, government agencies, and nonprofits are traditionally playing. The above-mentioned trends have expanded the overlapping space between the sectors and created ample opportunity for social entrepreneurship to emerge and grow. Solving social problems like fire safety requires holistic approaches with the participation of several actors or stakeholders (Masri, Mohd, & Sh, 2015).


Stakeholders in the public or private sector and non-governmental or non-profit organizations often seek to collaborate because they lack critical competencies that cannot be developed on their own or in a timely fashion (Child & Faulkner, 1998) and because their environments are more uncertain. Within the collaboration, two or more organizations from different sectors link or share information, resources, activities, and capabilities to jointly achieve an outcome that could not be achieved by a single organization or by organizations collaborating within one sector (Das 2000; Bryson et al. 2006). They form so-called cross sector collaboration (“CSC”).

Social entrepreneurship

Social entrepreneurship seems to exhibit characteristics of all three sectors. It seems that social entrepreneurs can find and propose sustainable solutions to rapidly increasing fire safety problems. Social entrepreneurs might be capable of building financially sustainable models with gaining efficiency by relying on volunteers. They combine social problems with private sector funding sources and identify products and services, customers are willing to ‘hire.’ It seems that in the future we will see fire risk reductions through social entrepreneurial opportunity recognitions which can inspire us to bring fire safety to a higher level and this is yet to be explored in any detail.

Interest in, and activity around, social entrepreneurship is growing as influential individuals and organizations work to fill the gaps left by government and business in addressing social needs (Bielefeld 2008; Dacin et al. 2011). Leading foundations in the field like Ashoka, the Skoll Foundation, and the Schwab Foundation actively promote social entrepreneurship by highlighting the achievements of individual social entrepreneurs (Seelos, Mair, Battilana, Dacin, & Dacin, 2010). Also, governments have started supporting social entrepreneurship by establishing new organizational frameworks in order to encourage the formation of new social entrepreneurial initiatives and by providing funding to these initiatives.

Correspondingly, the management and nonprofit literatures are increasingly focused on entrepreneurial activities that are motivated by social concerns, such as sustainability, poverty, and social equity (Dacin et al. 2011; Murphy and Coombes 2009). Unlike conventional (or commercial) entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs “neither anticipate nor organize to create substantial financial profit”; instead, they aim for value in the form of societal benefit (Martin and Osberg 2007, 34) by developing innovative solutions to social problems. This mission may be addressed through creating new ventures or innovating within existing organizations (Zahra et al. 2009).

Dees (1998) defines social entrepreneurs as people who play the role of change agents in the social sector, by:

  • Adopting a mission to create and sustain social value (not just private value),
  • Recognizing and relentlessly pursuing new opportunities to serve that mission,
  • Engaging in a process of continuous innovation, adaptation and learning,
  • Acting boldly without being limited by resources currently in hand, and
  • Exhibiting heightened accountability to the constituencies served and for the outcomes created.

The central driver for social entrepreneurship is the social problem being addressed, and the particular organizational form a social enterprise (SE) takes should be a decision based on which format would most effectively mobilize the resources needed to address that problem (Austin, Stevenson, & Wei-Skillern, 2006). Thus, social entrepreneurship is not defined by legal form, as it can be pursued through various vehicles. Indeed, examples of social entrepreneurship can be found within or can span the nonprofit, business, or governmental sectors (Austin et al., 2006).

Social entrepreneurs have gained attention due to their promise to alleviate social problems (Estrin, Mickiewicz, & Stephan, 2013). The desire to make positive social change motivates social entrepreneurship (Shane, Locke, & Collins, 2003).  Social enterprises have emerged as significant organizational players in market economies (Di Domenico, Haugh, & Tracey, 2010).  The number of SEs have proliferated to address a growing number of social problems, like increased fire risks. An increased demand for their services  seems to be an important factor that motivates collaboration amongst stakeholders and SEs (Sakarya, Bodur, Yildirim-Öktem, & Selekler-Göksen, 2012).

Stakeholders in the public or private sector and non-governmental or non-profit organizations often seek to collaborate as they lack critical competencies that cannot be developed on their own or in a timely fashion (Child & Faulkner, 1998) and their environments are more uncertain.

Collaborations for social business models enable organizations to assemble, mobilize, and deploy resources necessary for social entrepreneurship—including financial assistance, expertise, and cultural and institutional resources (Mair and Marti 2006; Tracey, Phillips, and Jarvis 2011). By tapping into social networks and linking across sectors, social entrepreneurs can collectively expand capabilities and reach and significantly advance solutions to social problems (Dees and Economy 2001; Drayton 2010; Guclu, Dees, and Anderson 2002).

The question is: How do local social entrepreneurs foster and sustain valuable collaborations? Notably, the establishment and maintenance of collaborations is difficult, and partnerships vary in the extent of partner engagement, resources involved, scope, complexity, and strategic value (Bielefeld 2008).

About the author: Ales Jug, PhD Verified icon 2 Verified icon 1

As a fire prevention focused social entrepreneur and scholar I am positive that with social entrepreneurship it is possible to change safety awareness through social business models, and proven prevention campaigns that motivate people to change their safety attitude. Without this, poor safety increases risks and consequently vulnerability to falling below the poverty level. My capability: fire prevention, fire risk assessment, social entrepreneurship, social business, community resilience, long distance running and motorcycle riding.

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