Disputation | Idrott som medel – inte som mål: Förutsättningar för socialt entreprenörskap inom idrott av Daniel Bjärsholm, Malmö universitet, den 7 februari 2020

På fredag den 7 februari 2020 försvarar Daniel Bjärsholm sin avhandling i idrottsvetenskap vid Malmö universitet, Idrott som medel – inte som mål: Förutsättningar för socialt entreprenörskap inom idrott. Disputationen äger rum i Orkanen, sal D138, Malmö universitet, Nordenskiöldsgatan 10, kl 13:15 och ett par timmar framöver.

Avhandlingsarbetet har bedrivits med stöd av huvudhandledaren professor Johan R. Norberg, Malmö universitet, och biträdande handledaren docent Katarina Schenker, Linnéuniversitetet.

Fakultetspponent är professor Solveig Straume, Høgskolen i Molde. Betygsnämnden består av följande ledamöter: Docent Åsa Bäckström, Gymnastik- och idrottshögskolan, professor Ørnulf Seippel, Norges idrettshøgskole, och docent Susanne Wallman-Lundåsen, Mittuniversitetet.

Avhandlingen är utgiven av Malmö universitet och ingår i serien Malmö Studies in Sport Sciences som volym 34. Den kan kostnadsfritt laddas ned här.


In sport management research, little attention has been paid to the relatively new concept of social entrepreneurship. In short, the concept refers to innovative methods of creating and satisfying social values through sport. However, research has shown that social entrepreneurs in sporting contexts are having difficulties in creating sustainable businesses. In addition to that the economic preconditions for social entreprenurial undertakings are uncertain, more research is needed on the general preconditions for conducting social entrepreneurship in sport. Hence, the aim of this compilation thesis, which consists of five papers, is to examine and analyse the preconditions for conducting social entrepreneurship in sport. The thesis is divided into two parts. In the first part, the subject of research (i.e., social entreprenurship in sport) is presented and defined. This is done by contextualising social entrepreneurship, analysing previous research on social entrepreneurship in sport, theoretically defining the concept and describing some research ethical issues that might arise in studies of social entrepreneurship. The second part of the thesis consists of three empirical studies of organisational, economic and political preconditions for conducting social entrepreneurship in sport.

The findings from this thesis are based on an extensive literature review and five case studies in which multiple methods of data collection were used (interviews, documents and observations). The first paper, Sport and social entrepreneurship: a review of a concept in progress, shows that research on social entrepreneurship in sport is limited, the concept is seldom defined and sometimes used in ways more similar to philanthropy or corporate social responsibility. Also, sport only plays a minor role in the reviewed literature. The second paper, Ethical considerations in researching sport and social entrepreneurship, discusses some of the ethical dilemmas that have occurred when researching social entrepreneurship in sport. These dilemmas can, for example, be related to the principle of confidentiality. The third paper, Social entrepreneurship, sport and democracy development, offers an explanation of how to understand the “social” dimension in the concept of social entrepreneurship in sport. The social is ultimately about democracy in the sense that the participants are recognised, are given influence and are included in the organisation and in its community. The fourth paper, Networking as a cornerstone within the practice of social entrepreneurship in sport, focuses on how social entrepreneurial sport organisations can achieve economic sustainability by using their networks. The analysis shows, for instance, that the network of a social entrepreneurial sport organisation encompasses many actors from all sectors of society, and that the networks themselves assume many forms. The fifth and final paper, Swedish sport policy in an era of neoliberalism: An expression of social entrepreneurship?, provides an analysis of political preconditions for conducting social entrepreneurship in sport in Sweden. The paper, for example, argues that some political initiatives in the Swedish sport policy can be regarded as social innovations, since these aim to both solve certain identified social problems in society in general (e.g., social inclusion), or in sport in particular (e.g., making sport activities more accessible by lowering costs). In sum, this thesis contributes with: (a) empirical examples of social entrepreneurial sport organisations; (b) a theoretical understanding of the “social” dimension of social entrepreneurship in sport; (c) an ethical discussion on the role of researchers; and (d) a starting point when discussing the Swedish government support for sport.

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