Kathleen Roberts, Ph.D. is a 2011 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Dissertation Committee

  • Jon Wergin, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • Laurien Alexandre, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Jonathan Reams, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Jeanne Nakamura, Ph.D., External Reader


Social Entrepreneurs, Meaning Making, Constructive-Developmental Theory, Action Logic, Social Change, Robert Kegan, William Torbert, Systems Change, Leadership, Learning Environment, Empathy, Early Experience

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This dissertation is an exploratory study of the meaning making that leads to social entrepreneurial action; specifically, action that has either moved beyond the local or at the local level has impacted several different systems. Recent leadership research suggests that to meet today's complex challenges and create sustainable change, leadership must possess bigger minds, meaning advanced and mature ways of understanding the world (Cook-Greuter, 1999; Torbert, 1999). By challenging and changing established equilibriums with new structures, new systems, and new relationships, social entrepreneurs reflect a capacity to understand the world in complex ways. Through the lens of constructive-developmental theory (Kegan, 1982, 1994) and the action logic framework of Cook-Greuter (1999, 2002, 2003, 2004), Rooke and Torbert (2004), Torbert (1994, 1996), and Torbert et al. (2004), this study examined the complexity of mind of 9 social entrepreneurs and the perspective-shifting experiences that led to social entrepreneurial action. The purpose of the study was to obtain insights for constructing learning environments for the development of future social entrepreneurs and determine whether a sample of social entrepreneurs might yield a higher percentage of individuals engaged in advanced and complex meaning making. Participants were assessed for their action logic using the Leadership Development Profile (Cook-Greuter, 1999, 2004; Rooke & Torbert, 2005; Torbert et al., 2004), a variation of the Washington University Sentence Completion Test (Loevinger & Wessler, 1970) and were interviewed to identify significant perspective-shifting experiences. The sample revealed two Individualists, one Strategist/early Alchemist, one late Achiever, and five Achievers; suggesting that operating from Achiever action logic may be a prerequisite for engagement in social entrepreneurial action. The results of the study also suggest early life experiences of a global perspective contribute to a commitment to social change. The three themes that emerged, an awakening, a community connection, and a global perspective, highlighted empathy as a catalyst for taking responsibility for a greater good. An area to be further explored is whether engagement in social entrepreneurial action and/or the cultivation of empathy is a pathway to advanced meaning making capacity. The electronic version of this dissertation is accessible at the OhioLINK ETD Center,