The Rise of the Social Entrepreneur Post-Katrina

Linda Usdin  (Swamplily LLC and Propeller) Andrea Chen  (Propeller)

Published: Aug 13, 2015

Social entrepreneurship has the potential to help build a more equitable New Orleans. But prior to Hurricane Katrina, the economic, political, and social context of metro New Orleans was not conducive to social entrepreneurship. Katrina changed this context. Today, the metro environment enables innovation and creativity via idea competitions, government responsiveness, public/private partnerships, and new resources available for startups engaging in creative problem solving of basic social issues. Data shows that social entrepreneurial activity in New Orleans has increased since Katrina . This report takes a close look at key differences between pre- and post-Katrina New Orleans, and identifies factors and agents that enabled a shift in the metro’s entrepreneurial landscape.


NOI10 banner


Innovation is often borne of necessity married with opportunity. In 2005, on the heels of one of the costliest and deadliest disasters in U.S. history, and in the context of a business environment that is most charitably described as traditional, necessity met opportunity and social entrepreneurship began germinating in New Orleans.

Hurricane Katrina provided a distinct line of demarcation for examining social entrepreneurial activity in New Orleans. The challenges in assessing the growth of social entrepreneurship begin with the most basic evaluative conundrums. There are currently no consistent systems either locally or nationally for measuring this emergent field. In fact, scholarly research has been limited by lack of a consistent definition, as well as questions about how to measure the impact of social entrepreneurship. Much of the research has focused on case studies and exciting examples.

In this paper, we will look at differences in the contextual environment that enabled change as well as the agents of change. Dr. Ana M. Peredo lists the following factors as essential to social entrepreneurship: (1) aiming either exclusively or in some prominent way to create social value of some kind, and pursuing that goal through some combination of (2) recognizing and exploiting opportunities to create this value, (3) employing innovation, (4) tolerating risk and (5) declining to accept limitations in available resources.

Continue reading the full report [Download PDF]

Citations and sources can be found in the PDF copy of the report.