Abstract

Contemporary policy encourages self-employment and entrepreneurship as a vehicle for empowerment and self-sufficiency among people with disabilities. However, such encouragement raises important citizenship questions concerning the participation of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). As an innovative strategy for addressing pressing social and economic problems, “social entrepreneurship” has become a phrase that is gaining momentum in the IDD community—one that carries with it a very distinct history. Although social entrepreneurship holds the potential to be an empowering source of job creation and social innovation, it also has the potential to be used to further disenfranchise this marginalized population. It is crucial that in moving forward society takes care not to perpetuate existing models of oppression, particularly in regard to the social and economic participation of people with IDD. The conceptual tools addressed in this article can inform the way that researchers, policymakers, and practitioners approach complex issues, such as social entrepreneurship, to improve communication among disciplines while retaining an integral focus on rights and social justice by framing this issue within citizenship theory.

By bridging the fields of disability studies and entrepreneurial studies, this article seeks to expand on scholars' existing knowledge about strategies for employment for people with IDD by providing a variety of conceptual tools with which social entrepreneurship can be meaningfully studied and applied. A conceptual tool refers to an ontological method of knowledge representation that allows for the reification of abstract theoretical constructs, making them less generalized and more concrete so that they can be applied in real-world settings (Cochran-Smith, Feiman-Nemser, & McIntyre, 2008; Honneth, Butler, Geuss, Lear, & Jay, 2008). In other words, conceptual tools aid in knowledge acquisition by making sense of abstract concepts and providing ways of thinking about those concepts that relate one's understanding to real-world contexts. Further situating this topic within citizenship theory provides a useful way of conceiving of participation because it allows for engagement with discourse on rights and social justice. Social entrepreneurship can be a powerful expression of citizenship. Accordingly, a disability critique of citizenship, and the ways in which it has been used to marginalize and disenfranchise people with IDD, will lead to a better understanding of how policymakers and practitioners can promote and support innovative strategies such as social entrepreneurship as vehicles for empowerment and self-determination.

Contemporary policy encourages self-employment and entrepreneurship as vehicles for empowerment, self-determination, and self-sufficiency for people with disabilities (Arnold & Ipsen, 2005; Office of Disability Employment Policy, 2001, 2005, 2007). Whereas it is the goal of financial self-sufficiency that defines self-employment, entrepreneurship is defined by innovation and growth. Both self-employment and entrepreneurship are being promoted as means to help reduce poverty and employment disparities while affording people with disabilities the opportunity to be less reliant on entitlement-based services (Blanck, Sandler, Schmeling, & Schartz, 2000). However, this justification raises several important citizenship questions when people with IDD are concerned.

The history of people with IDD in the United States is invariably one of employment or, rather, of exclusion from employment and other areas of social and economic participation. Although today we are familiar with the concepts of community-integrated living in deinstitutionalization, many institutions actually began as a way of providing people with IDD skills so that they could be fully integrated into the community. However, over time, these training schools became synonymous with unethical behavior and inhumane conditions (Braddock & Parish, 2001; Carey, 2009; Trent, 1994). Further, deinstitutionalization posed a unique problem to the question of employment in the face of increasing necessity and demand for opportunity and support (Braddock & Parish, 2001; Carey, 2009; Mansell, 2006; Trent, 1994). When more people with IDD were living in the community, many wanted and needed to work—to participate gainfully and meaningfully (Butterworth & Boeltzig, 2008; Clegg, Murphy, Almack, & Harvey, 2008; Jahoda et al., 2009; Lysaght, Ouellette-Kuntz, & Morrison, 2009; Migliore, Mank, Grossi, & Rogan, 2007; Murphy, Rogan, Handley, Kincaid, & Royce-Davis, 2002)—as full citizens.

While self-employment and entrepreneurship continue to be a growing trend, they are being offered, provided, and supported inconsistently (Arnold & Ipsen, 2005). More recently, in the disability sector there has been an emphasis on social entrepreneurship: businesses intended to not just generate monetary profit, but to do so with a primarily social mission (Parker Harris, Renko, & Caldwell, in press). “Social entrepreneurship” has become a phrase gaining momentum in the IDD community (Bichard, 2008; DisabilityWorks, 2008; Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago, 2011; Illinois Facilities Fund, 2000; Pavey, 2006; Ray Graham Association, 2009; Reid, 2004; Seguin Services, 2011), one that carries with it a very distinct history.

Whereas for people with disabilities in general the primary benefit of self-employment and entrepreneurship is that it offers opportunities that may not be found in traditional, competitive employment (Blanck et al., 2000; Doyel, 2002; Ipsen, Arnold, & Colling, 2005; Office of Disability Employment Policy, 2005), the overarching concern for the IDD community is twofold. First, that policy is being created for people with disabilities in general that is directing funding and affecting the IDD community and employment service providers without necessarily recognizing their distinct needs. Second, that social entrepreneurship is being used as a way to repackage employment strategies that have historically segregated and oppressed this population. The key to this distinction lay in recognizing the difference between social enterprises that are created for versus those created by people with disabilities. Social entrepreneurship for people with disabilities is a customized employment strategy that should be both self-directed and person-centered. It bears consideration that, in many ways, people with IDD have always worked—even if that work was not deemed valuable, productive, or considered employment/employable in the mainstream labor market. People with IDD and their families may have long been entrepreneurial because they have had to be innovative to work within a society that systematically disadvantages and undervalues them. Subsequently, social entrepreneurship has both the potential to be empowering as well as potential to be oppressive.

Although this research cannot definitively answer the larger epistemic questions, it offers a place to begin addressing current gaps in our knowledge and from which to identify avenues for future inquiry. Moreover, citizenship theory contributes to the development of undertheorized areas of disability policy by superseding ostensible policy silos in the interest of actualizing theories of democratic membership in society and participatory parity (Berube, 2003; Fraser & Honneth, 2003; Lovell, 2007; Parker Harris, Owen, & Gould, 2012). It is crucial that, in moving forward toward the goals of community integration and social participation, policymakers and service providers take care not to inadvertently perpetuate existing models of oppression, particularly in regard to the social and economic participation of people with IDD in employment.

What (Exactly) is Social Entrepreneurship?

To understand what social entrepreneurship is, we first need to distinguish between self-employment and entrepreneurship as the two are not synonymous. This informed understanding is perhaps the most important conceptual tool; otherwise, those working in the disability sector will be limited in the ability to develop appropriate policies that meet the specific needs and objectives of social entrepreneurs with IDD. Self-employment is, first and foremost, an alternative strategy to salaried employment. Entrepreneurship, however, refers to bringing something new and innovative to the market, providing a clear differentiation from the concept of self-employment (Schumpeter, 2000; Shane & Venkataraman, 2000). Although entrepreneurship can be self-employment, self-employment is not necessarily entrepreneurship.

Self-employment has been essential to the economic advancement and social mobility of minority groups in the United States (Bates, 1997; Sanders & Nee, 1996; Waldinger, Aldrich, & Ward, 2000). For instance, many immigrants find it difficult to enter the mainstream labor market and turn to self-employment as a way to gain economic advantage in pursuit of the American Dream (Sanders & Nee, 1996). It becomes an expression of citizenship, following in the proverbial footsteps of the classic rags-to-riches narrative (Bates, 1997; Sarachek, 1978). However, this ideology is problematic when applied to the context of disability and especially IDD, wherein it takes on an undertone of new paternalism (Batavia, 2001; Mead, 1997)—assuming that someone with IDD should be able to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” without recognizing the pervasiveness of institutionalized social and environmental barriers.

While self-employment refers to a sense of financial self-sustainability, it is innovation that distinguishes entrepreneurship from simply working for oneself (Schumpeter, 2000; Shane & Venkataraman, 2000). Not everyone who starts a business is an entrepreneur. There has to be something innovative or change-oriented about it (Dees, 2001). A source of business and job creation, entrepreneurship has long been considered an essential component of a healthy economy (Swedberg, 2000). However, theorists differ on the justification for why. For social theorist Max Weber, the role of entrepreneurship has less to do with any single individual than it does with the reaction of enterprises to market opportunities. The entrepreneur is positioned oppositionally to the bureaucrat in an increasingly rationalized society. Whereas bureaucracy posed a threat to economic progress, the entrepreneur held the potential to counterbalance it and thereby regulate the bureaucracy and state (Brouwer, 2002; Swedberg, 2000; Thakur, 2007).

Conversely, according to economic theorist Joseph Schumpeter, there is a “creative–destructive” process involved in modern capitalism (Dees, 2001; Radford, 1994), wherein an entrepreneur acts as the change-maker of the economy and is responsible for moving the economy forward through innovation by serving new markets and by creating new ways of doing things. Prior theorists had assumed the economy to be merely a static, reactionary system acted on by external forces and limited in its ability to account for change. However, Schumpeter's theorization recognizes not only the impact of the social environment but also internally generated change centered on the entrepreneur—entrepreneurship as innovation (Brouwer, 2002; Schumpeter, 2000; Swedberg, 2000). This has great potential for contextualization in future IDD research that uses literature on self-determination and person-centered approaches.

What entrepreneurship theorists overlook, however, is the extent to which institutionalized sociocultural factors (Thornton, Ribeiro-Soriano, & Urbano, 2011) limit the ability of marginalized populations, such as people with disabilities, from participation in entrepreneurship (Parker Harris, Renko, & Caldwell, 2012). For instance, it is not uncommon to encounter disability employment programs that do not support or encourage entrepreneurship. Further, those programs that promote self-employment and small business development in general have not historically been receptive to business owners with disabilities (Office of Disability Employment Policy, 2001). For many individuals with disabilities, one of the largest barriers to entrepreneurship is the lack of information or informational resources necessary to start a business or to develop their business plan (Doyel, 2002; Office of Disability Employment Policy, 2001; Walls, Dowler, Cordingly, Orslene, & Greer, 2001). Without this, they cannot take the first step toward entrepreneurship, belying the systemic nature of these specific barriers.

The notion of opportunity has become central to contemporary definitions of entrepreneurship. Whereas Schumpeter saw the entrepreneur as a change-maker, disrupting the socioeconomic equilibrium through innovation, Peter Drucker emphasized the view that the entrepreneur exploited opportunities that create change (Dees, 2001). Indeed, entrepreneurship relies on opportunity recognition (Baron & Ensley, 2006), which involves the existence of, the discovery of, and the decision to exploit entrepreneurial opportunities (Shane & Venkataraman, 2000). Further, resources have significant direct, positive effects on opportunity recognition for entrepreneurs (Ozgen & Baron, 2007). For example, social networks and forms of support are resources that provide information and access to opportunities (Chang, Memili, Chrisman, Kellermanns, & Chua, 2009; Huybrechts, Voordeckers, Lybaert, & Vandemaele, 2011; Ozgen & Baron, 2007). Further, beliefs about the value of resources are, in and of themselves, resources (Alvarez & Busenitz, 2001). Whereas one could claim that opportunity is a resource, one could also argue that resources are opportunities or facilitate opportunity recognition and creation. Thus, the relationship between opportunity recognition and resources is a recursive one. Additionally, the emphasis on both opportunity and resources provides an interesting conceptual tool with which to explore entrepreneurship among people with IDD given (a) the need to enable equal opportunity in employment for this population (Blanck & Braddock, 1998; Butterworth & Boeltzig, 2008; Wehman, Revell, & Brooke, 2003) and (b) the recognition of the disparities in the size and composition of social networks for people with IDD (Bigby, 2008; Eisenman, 2007; Lippold & Burns, 2009; Robertson et al., 2001) and how that may affect access to opportunities and resources (Renko, Parker Harris, & Caldwell, 2012). In light of all that has been said above, entrepreneurship has been defined as “a process by which individuals—either on their own or inside organizations—pursue opportunities without regard to the resources they currently control” (Stevenson & Jarillo, 1990, p. 23).

The need to address a social problem is what drives social entrepreneurship and distinguishes it from commercial entrepreneurship. There is a wide range of definitions of social entrepreneurship that span for-profit, nonprofit, and hybrid models, each integrating varying degrees of social value or objective. Underlying the diverse models of social entrepreneurship is the impetus to create social value in place of solely monetary profit (Austin, Stevenson, & Wei-Skillern, 2006; Bornstein & Davis, 2010). The organizational form of social entrepreneurship should therefore reflect what most effectively addresses the specific social problem. In this way, the “social enterprise” is not a legal entity and retains flexibility with regards to its structure, which enables it to take on various different formats, often blurring the boundaries between sectors (Bornstein & Davis, 2010). Certainly, defining social entrepreneurship as a process rather than simply a legal entity opens the possibility for inclusion of people with IDD significantly. However, the use of the term social entrepreneurship as it is applied both for and by people with disabilities challenges these theoretical distinctions.

Conflation of Self-employment and Social Entrepreneurship

Self-employment can be used as a customized employment option, tailoring not just a job to an individual's interest or talent, but an entire business. However, it is important not to conflate the two or to assume that one necessarily follows the other. Despite the theoretical potential, self-employment is not necessarily customized nor is it necessarily supported, competitive, gainful, or meaningful. Given the focus of vocational rehabilitation (VR) providers on the intellectual capacity of the business owner, self-employment is often not offered for people with IDD as an employment option (Wehman, Griffin, & Hammis, 2003). This is apparent in the number of VR self-employment closures for people with IDD (0.3%), the lowest across all disability categories (Revell, Smith, & Inge, 2009). Regardless, the promotion of self-employment and social entrepreneurship has become an increasing trend among agencies providing services to people with IDD (Bichard, 2008; Disability Works, 2008; Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago, 2011; Frechette, 2011, July; Illinois Facilities Fund, 2000; Pritchard & Romano, 2008; Ray Graham Association, 2009; Reid, 2004; Seguin Services, 2011; The ARC of Illinois, 2010).

Given the current state of the economy, many service providers and community organizations struggle in the face of impending cuts to human services and are exploring social entrepreneurship as a model that would allow them to continue operating to meet the needs of the communities they serve, offsetting costs and supplementing their bottom line by integrating a profit stream. As such, agencies providing employment services may be creating social enterprise programs that employ people with disabilities but not necessarily as social entrepreneurs. This can lead to confusion regarding funding if money is going to support an organization itself rather than programs within organizations that promote social enterprise development among individuals with IDD themselves. There is a need for clarification in policies that direct funding so that both service providers and individuals with IDD can be adequately supported in pursuing social entrepreneurship.

The way that social entrepreneurship for people with IDD is currently used in practice often includes scenarios that would be considered self-employment, job training, or skill development. This begs the question whether the social value component of these ventures is considered not to be generated by the person with a disability but rather for them. Whereas critical theoretical distinctions should normally be made between self-employment, entrepreneurship, and social entrepreneurship, these concepts become compounded in IDD applications wherein the self-sustainability aspect of self-employment, the innovative aspect of entrepreneurship, and the social value generating aspect of social entrepreneurship need not necessarily be met to use this particular term—treated as if conditionally exempt. This raises concerns in regard to independence and self-determination, two elements that entrepreneurship promotes for people with disabilities in general. For this reason, we need to better understand how people with IDD are participating and supported in social entrepreneurial ventures and how to engage with and incorporate entrepreneurship theory in disability studies research so as to make sense of this conflation rather than be mislead by it. For example, the potential for job creation has been lauded as one of the benefits of entrepreneurship, not solely for people with disabilities (Blanck et al., 2000) but in relation to the general population in regard to the health of the economy (Swedberg, 2000). Although this potential for job creation is very likely a motivating factor in the promotion of social entrepreneurship for people with IDD, it is unclear whether the justification is consistent with how such employment options are defined within entrepreneurship theory. Toward this end, citizenship theory can provide a constructive theoretical framework to explore complex issues, such as employment, structuring and focusing the discussion in a way that emphasizes rights and participatory principles.

What (Exactly) is Citizenship?

Often only thought of in terms of legal status and civic engagement, theories of citizenship pervade every discussion on difference and discrimination. It is a body of literature infused with the language of rights, membership, and equality (Lister, 1997). Citizenship refers to more than simply one's relationship to a nation-state. It has grown to encompass our relationship to others, to society, and to ourselves. Citizenship has become a desirable activity, the expression of shared identity (Kymlicka & Norman, 1994; Meekosha & Dowse, 1997), and the very claiming of citizenship can itself be a powerful social act (Lister, 1997, 2007).

An understanding of citizenship plays a pivotal role in informing discussion on the participation of marginalized populations in society. Yet, the intersection of intellectual disability and citizenship has received little attention until recently when two thought-provoking and complementary works were published in this area by Allison Carey (2009) and Leanne Dowse (2009). A comparison reveals that although Carey provided an important historical overview of liberal citizenship in the United States and Dowse began to delve into the challenges posed to citizenship by the ideological shift toward neoliberalism, both stopped short of engaging with citizenship on a theoretical level in favor of the material. Moving forward, however, a lack of theoretical engagement with citizenship literature can limit discussions on social, civil, and human rights as regards the social and economic participation of people with IDD.

The way we think of citizenship in the United States refers to an ideal of liberal citizenship, which emphasizes a sense of individualism (Turner, 2006). The traditional and enduring definition is that citizenship is “a matter of ensuring that everyone is treated as a full and equal member of society. And the way to ensure this sense of membership is through according people an increasing number of citizenship rights” (Kymlicka & Norman, 1994, p. 354). Full citizenship requires the recognition of three kinds of rights: civil, political, and social (Marshall, 2006). It was on the foundation of civil and political rights that social rights were cultivated in the twentieth century:

By the social element I mean the whole range, from the right to a modicum of economic welfare and security to the right to share to the full in the social heritage and to live the life of a civilized being according to the standards prevailing in the society. (Marshall, 2006, p. 30)

Shifting priorities to social rights were reflected in the growth of social welfare policies. Liberal citizenship has historically been referred to as passive citizenship because membership becomes an entitlement and participation is not contingent on obligation: meaning, people do not have to do anything to be a citizen; they simply are citizens, thereby enabling the marginalized to enter the mainstream under the provision and protection of these rights (Kymlicka & Norman, 1994). Social rights, therefore, theoretically, enable disadvantaged groups to exercise their civil and political rights effectively and are fundamental to the promotion of individual autonomy and self-determination (Lister, 1997, 2007).

However, liberal citizenship does not recognize the structural and attitudinal barriers that people with disabilities encounter or the ways in which a disabling society limits their citizenship and ability to participate as a full and equal member (Barton, 1993; Morris, 2005; Parker, 2007). Moreover, within liberalism, intellectual disability is used as exclusion criteria from the realization of citizenship because liberal political theory assumes citizens to be rational, independent agents and excludes those not meeting such standards. Inclusion, therefore, necessitates addressing the assumptions of liberalism and redefining the roles of competence, independence, and equality in determining the relationship between people with IDD and rights (Carey, 2009). In short, it calls for a valuing of interdependence (Reindal, 1999; Walmsley, 1993; Wendell, 1996). Recognizing the connection between liberalism and the marginalization and exclusion of people with IDD is an essential tool in exploring complex phenomena, such as participation in social entrepreneurship, because it frames our understanding of that participation and the challenges posed to it by liberalism and neoliberalism.

For instance, consider social entrepreneurship as a pathway for social and economic participation. In IDD employment literature, social participation has been spoken of as an integral component to integration and inclusion (Hughes, Kim, & Hwang, 1998; Novak & Rogan, 2010). Within social entrepreneurship literature, economic participation has been spoken of in terms of social welfare: addressing poverty and improving quality of life through the creation of sustainable income-generating opportunities, increases in income/earnings, consumer access to markets with affordable and appropriate products and services, and opportunities to develop capital and assets (Dees, 2008). However, this literature does not necessarily take into account the systemic barriers that people with disabilities encounter in regard to limitations on income, earnings, and asset accumulation (Harris & Weinberger-Divack, 2010; The ARC, 2010; Walling & Turner, 2010) that marginalizes and excludes people with disabilities from economic participation and, concomitantly, social participation. Accordingly, the focus here on the importance of social institutions, a cornerstone of disability theory (Barnes & Mercer, 2003; Oliver, 1996; Siebers, 2008), seems to parallel the aforementioned criticism regarding the lack of sociocultural context in entrepreneurship research (Thornton et al., 2011). In other words, much of entrepreneurship research does not take into consideration the extent to which social and environmental barriers affect the entry of people with disabilities into social entrepreneurship (Parker Harris, Renko, & Caldwell, in press, 2012; Renko, Parker Harris, & Caldwell, 2012), and people with IDD in particular.

Universal and Group Differentiated Citizenship

One of the foremost debates within citizenship theory is between universal and differentiated citizenship, which also finds itself replicated in approaches to disability policy. Whereas universal citizenship hopes to transcend difference and afford everyone the same status in society by recognizing a common humanity (Lister, 2007; Young, 1989); differentiated citizenship asserts that citizens participate not just as individuals, but as members of a group, and rights depend partly on group membership (Young, 1989). Universal citizenship has engendered criticism from cultural pluralists who argue that universalism does not transcend difference so much as neglect it because common rights cannot accommodate for the special needs of minority groups (Kymlicka & Norman, 1994). Given that inclusive forms of citizenship necessarily produce exclusion (Lister, 2007), ignoring the differences between groups could serve to “enhance the domination of groups which are already dominant, and would silence the marginal and oppressed groups” (Yuval-Davis, 1997, pp. 17–18). Iris Marion Young argues that it is only through differentiated citizenship, then, that the rights of excluded groups with distinctive needs can be met. However, critics of this view contend that in differentiated citizenship there is no cohesion or social solidarity. Rather, by focusing on difference we could create a “politics of grievance” whereby group leaders would expend their energy and resources establishing disadvantage so that they would then be able to claim group rights (Kymlicka & Norman, 1994).

This debate resonates within the disability community through discussions regarding universal human rights and differentiated “special” rights. For example, the question of whether students with IDD would best be served through mainstreaming or special education is a question of universal versus differentiated citizenship. As such, both universal and group differentiated citizenship are valuable conceptual tools for addressing controversial issues and can offer a new perspective on a long debated topic, helping to structure and focus discussion on rights and participation. In applying this concept to employment, consider the debate between integrated and segregated work settings. There continues to be disagreement over the extent to which people with IDD and their families benefit from integrated versus segregated work environments (Butterworth & Boeltzig, 2008; Weikle, 2008). However, research has found that people with IDD who live and work in integrated settings were more self-determined, more autonomous, made more choices, and reported being more satisfied with their job and lifestyle (Wehmeyer & Bolding, 2001).

Offering a divergent perspective on the issue, Cummins and Lau (2003) approach the integrated versus segregated work debate by questioning whether participating in community living activities constitutes “integration,” or whether it is merely community exposure. By community exposure, the authors refer to instances when people are exposed to the general community without actually being socially integrated, thus differentiating between physical community integration and a sense of community connectedness, personal interdependency, and belonging. It is an important distinction to understand that by doing so the authors are arguing for the recognition of group differentiated rights, not for segregation.

Citizenship as Group Membership

The key elements of citizenship are membership of a community, rights and obligations attendant to that membership, and equality (Lister, 1997). As such, citizenship is relational. It is important to think about citizenship as group membership, particularly for people with IDD. This is not only because of the emphasis on community integration and social participation, but also because their roles and experiences have so often been relegated to the private domain—hidden away from society. Often people with IDD are not seen as full, public citizens, largely because of how IDD has been used as the benchmark to exclude people from citizenship. However, people do not have membership in just one community. Rather, we have intersecting and overlapping memberships in multiple communities (Robinson & Tajfel, 1996). By thinking of citizenship as group membership it provides a tool for considering how citizenship may be different in each of these groups for each of these different memberships.

In general communities are self-chosen, based more on similarities than differences. However, the process of deinstitutionalization constructed communities based on differences. “Community” continues to be defined for people with ID by service providers and policymakers (Cummins & Lau, 2003; Todd, 2000), speaking to the phenomenon of people with disabilities having to live “in but not of” their communities and speaking to the assimilative nature of participation (Milner & Kelly, 2009; Todd, 2000). Accordingly, participation is a political act (Beart, Hardy, & Buchan, 2004; Milner & Kelly, 2009). Although participation occurs in a public “community,” a sense of belongingness and support may be found in private spaces, often among others with IDD (Beart et al., 2004; Cummins & Lau, 2003; Hall, 2004; Milner & Kelly, 2009; Todd, 2000). Although some scholars, such as Cummins and Lau, are critical of whether integration has become a forced choice rather than the realization of autonomous choice, for many individuals with IDD a truly informed choice is already limited by social institutions given the lack of resources for alternatives to segregated work and nonwork options (Butterworth & Boeltzig, 2008). Perhaps, as has been suggested, it is not where, but rather how people participate that really matters (Milner & Kelly, 2009). In this vein, social entrepreneurship should be considered as just that, another option: an opportunity for social and economic participation that can occur either on one's own or inside organizations.

Many theorists, most notably among them Young, have acknowledged that citizenship and group membership are closely interrelated concepts (Young, 2002). However, it is by conceiving of citizenship as group membership that we can more meaningfully engage with the construct of intellectual disability, which has been remarkably neglected by citizenship theorists. It is important to recognize that citizenship issues occur at every level of group membership. Wherever group membership, or lack thereof, can be discerned there are questions of equality as well as of the rights and obligations attendant.

Thinking of citizenship as group membership also provides us with a valuable tool for how we conceptualize IDD in approaching research, policy, and practice. This is particularly useful for interdisciplinary discourse on IDD as it can help to improve communication between disciplines by enabling scholars to set the correct scope and provide better context within which to have critical discussions. It is essential that policy be informed by citizenship theory, otherwise we run the risk of creating policy that limits some rights in the name of protecting others. For example, it would be particularly problematic if one did not appreciate the critical distinction between group differentiated rights and segregation in Cummins and Lau's article. Framing research such as this in terms of citizenship will help in minimizing misinterpretation.

Neoliberalism and Social Entrepreneurship

Neoliberalism has resulted in a preoccupation with market forces. It re-categorizes formerly public issues into the private domain and, in doing so, complexifies the public/private divide and thereby obfuscates the role and responsibility of the state. Consequently, the role of government has shifted from one of social welfare to one that promotes and facilitates the activities of autonomous individuals (Dowse, 2009) and prompts us to question, What is neoliberal citizenship, and Who are neoliberal citizens?

Many of the challenges that will be encountered in neoliberalism are the result of a liberalist ideology, exacerbated by its latest recapitulation. For instance, the assumptions of liberalism indicate that for people with IDD to participate they must assimilate and meet normative expectations regarding independence and competency. The importance of such factors has become idealized for people entering self-employment, particularly immigrants motivated by the bootstrapping ideology of the American Dream and for whom business ownership becomes the ultimate expression of citizenship. However, for social entrepreneurs with IDD this poses a specific challenge to citizenship if the underlying assumption is that self-employment is a solitary endeavor. This ideological approach fails to recognize the importance of support for any entrepreneur (Bruderl & Preisendorfer, 1998), regardless of whether or not they have a disability, and imputes an unrealistic expectation of independence for social entrepreneurs with IDD rather than recognizing the inherent value of interdependence.

One paramount concern with the increasing deregulation espoused by neoliberalism and the increasing number of public-private partnerships forming is that public services will become subject to a free market ideology where competition is not necessarily in the best interest of the consumer. The needs of disadvantaged populations could potentially become lost to the capitalistic impulse should adequate provisions, such as oversight and regulation, not be instituted. While deregulation and less government involvement could theoretically mean more freedom and increased self-determination, in practice it could result in less choice because the state is not providing for equal opportunity due to a lower degree of accountability in the private sector and a greater degree of freedom on the part of organizations that can take advantage of consumers who are reliant on services. If so, then the application of market principles to the privatization of services for individuals with IDD appears to have a “paradoxical effect of limiting rather than promoting choice” (Dowse, 2009, p. 579). For example, organizations providing employment services may choose to focus on developing resources and supports that will yield the highest perceived return on investment, choosing to focus on employment options that will serve the greatest numbers of consumers rather than investing in social entrepreneurs. However, for social entrepreneurship to be realistically considered as an employment strategy, it must be presented as a viable option. Unless there exists more than one viable option, actionable choice does not exist (Harris, 2003). Therefore social entrepreneurship must be provided and supported adequately before people with disabilities can choose to pursue social entrepreneurship on an equal basis with others.

Neoliberalism challenges the justification for turning to social entrepreneurship as an employment alternative for people with disabilities. While, indeed, social entrepreneurship can be effectively utilized as an option that allows for economic self-sufficiency, independence, and social inclusion; it also has the potential to be used as a vehicle to remove the government of responsibility in providing for social welfare (Blanck, 2000; Blanck & Schartz, 2001; Wehman, Griffin et al., 2003)—restricting citizenship rights. Consider that within the VR system successful case closure only marks the emergence of a business. However, the need for resources and technical assistance continues beyond the point at which formal support is withdrawn, throughout business startup and development. For social entrepreneurs with IDD, continuous support may be even more crucial to the success of the venture and an integral component in achieving self-determined, person-centered social and economic participation.

Discussion

Entrepreneurship has become part of the nationwide strategy to address the disparities in employment for people with disabilities. Particularly, to help transition from unemployment and underemployment, thereby reliant on entitlements-based programs, toward programs that foster self-sufficiency and offer the opportunity to achieve gainful employment (Blanck et al., 2000; Blanck, Clay, Schmeling, Morris, & Ritchie, 2002). In the majority of scholarship on this topic, entrepreneurship is spoken of as a suggestion, and much of the research argues for policy directions without necessarily following programmatic implementation. As a result, little evidence-based research has been conducted. Further, most of the evidence-based research that has been done focuses on identifying barriers and establishing VR case closure as a successful outcome to demonstrate that self-employment, not necessarily entrepreneurship, is a viable employment option for people with disabilities (Arnold & Seekins, 1994; Blanck et al., 2000; Callahan, Shumpert, & Mast, 2002; Hagner & Davies, 2002; McNaughton, Symons, Light, & Parsons, 2006; Rizzo, 2002). In short, although research on social entrepreneurship and disability is nascent (Parker Harris, Renko, & Caldwell, in press, 2012; Renko, Parker Harris, & Caldwell, 2012), when introducing IDD to the discussion it becomes nonexistent.

While self-employment continues to be a growing trend; it is being offered, provided, and supported inconsistently (Arnold & Ipsen, 2005). It is important that we offer the option of choosing self-employment (or social entrepreneurship) without promoting the idea (Callahan et al., 2002). Further, when such employment options are offered they must be provided and supported adequately; otherwise, it is not truly giving people a choice. It is imperative that we understand how disability policy impacts people with IDD, particularly those policies that were not written to address the issues or needs specific to that group. If entrepreneurship is beneficial for people with disabilities in general then it should be similarly beneficial for people with IDD. However, people with IDD have a different history of employment and encounter different systemic social and environmental barriers that people with disabilities in general may not experience. For example, there is no mention of guardianship in the literature regarding self-employment or entrepreneurship for people with disabilities or how that might affect ownership and management decisions. Employment discourse requires contextualization within theoretical literature in disability studies and entrepreneurial studies as well as applied research in IDD, or else it contributes to the further marginalization of this already disenfranchised and neglected group.

The theoretical intersections and concepts addressed in this article can provide new ways of understanding old problems and help contextualize innovative emerging employment strategies that can at times surpass conventional ways of approaching employment issues for people with IDD. One of the central conceptual tools presented applies an understanding of what social entrepreneurship is and how it differs from self-employment and entrepreneurship, informed by entrepreneurial theory, to the IDD context. The integration of citizenship theory provides several constructive tools, chiefly among them the application of key components of citizenship (equality, group membership, rights, and obligations) and the main debates in the field to the context social entrepreneurs with IDD. For instance, the universal versus group differentiated debate provides insight into interpreting existing work on community integration and social participation, such as Cummins and Lau. Concurrently, entrepreneurship theory could benefit from the application of conceptual tools from the IDD field, such as person-centered planning, natural supports, and self-determination in choice and decision making. Moving forward, this research can inform the way that researchers, policymakers, and practitioners approach complex issues to improve communication between disciplines while retaining an integral focus on community inclusion and social participation due to the very nature of citizenship theory.

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Author notes

Editor-in-Charge: Philip Ferguson

Authors:

Kate Caldwell (e-mail: kcaldw3@uic.edu), Department of Disability and Human Development, University of Illinois at Chicago, 1640 West Roosevelt Road (MC626), Chicago, IL, 60608, USA; Sarah Parker Harris and Maija Renko, University of Illinois at Chicago.