Between and Beyond Social Entrepreneur and Activist

Transformative Personas for Social Change

Keywords: Social activism, social entrepreneur, civil society, social change


In this paper, we highlight emergent trends that we have observed from direct participation in civil society organisations, and importantly the potential they have to enact transformative social change. Specifically, drawing on in-depth participation with two community organisations in Leeds in the North of England, we highlight the limits of traditional personas of the social entrepreneur and social activist and tendencies that sit between and beyond them that are more hybrid and messy, but ultimately more disruptive and productive. Through our fieldwork, we identified four aspects to this: 1.) purposeful value-rationality and attempts to explicitly foreground values in the everyday; 2.) relations as co-constructed and interdependent; 3.) the cyclical and transformative nature of practices; and, 4.) the role of storytelling in narrating and supporting alternative future visions. Ultimately, at the heart of the dysfunction of both social entrepreneur and social activist personas is an absence of conscious acknowledgements of how our work is motivated by what we love, and what we feel a loss for; what we have become disconnected from, and what we urgently need to reconnect with beyond individualised notions of social change. We contend that acknowledging these and incorporating them into our social change work can nurture more transformative values, practices, identities and narratives.


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How to Cite
Darby, S., & Chatterton, P. (2019). Between and Beyond Social Entrepreneur and Activist. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 18(3), 724-750. Retrieved from