All topics related to social innovation, social enterprises and social entrepreneurship in civil society are welcome. We welcome every research that is grounded in the literature, that addresses significant research questions, and that includes findings that are supported by empirical findings (cases or surveys).
Nonetheless, the conference will focus mainly on the following ten thematic areas:
- Conceptual issues: There are several issues where conceptual clarification and development would benefit the field: what are appropriate definitions? What progress can be made to foster deeper mutual understanding and to build bridges among diverging schools of thought? How can conceptual frameworks be operationalised? In such a perspective, what are the key issues regarding methodological approaches?
- Theoretical analyses across disciplines: Much research on social enterprise has been informed by institutional and multi-disciplinary approaches. In addition, new developments in economics have also promised good progress in research on social enterprise. As for the field of social innovation, it includes a considerable diversity of approaches and perspectives. What are some of the challenges facing these approaches? On the other hand, what processes of consolidation and complementarity are taking/should take place?
- Models of social entrepreneurship: Some parts of the discourse on social entrepreneurship emphasise bottom-up paths of social entrepreneurial activity, whilst others implicitly advocate elite networks for promoting entrepreneurial social action. Considering the differences regarding the engagement of ordinary citizens (and the extent of such involvement), what is the difference between individual (heroic individualistic) vs. collective models? What does each model entail in terms of strengths and limitations?
- Social innovation in a context of “blurring boundaries”: social entrepreneurship and social innovation often take place at the border area between state and civil society or between the market and civil society. What are the implications of this situation in terms of isomorphic pressures and identity for social enterprises, advantages and drawbacks of partnerships and policy orientations? In the context of social innovation and public policies: What public policies have been found to be positively supportive of social innovation? What are the drivers and barriers for social innovation? How can different forms of social innovation be institutionalised (individual, organisational, cluster-based, etc.)?
- Management and governance models for social innovation: What managerial practices facilitate organisations becoming innovative? Can a culture of innovation be established? Is the structure of governance related to social innovation, and if so, in what way?
- Social innovation related to sectors: How does social innovation vary according to activity areas such as work integration, fair trade, culture, environmental services, welfare, and public service provision? Studies should not merely be descriptive but should address significant research questions arising from the literature.
- Measuring social innovation impact and performance: This may be considered both in terms of economic dimensions (growth/productivity/efficiency) and in terms of social dimensions (well-being and social cohesion). Measurement issues need to reflect on the transactions costs involved, the purposes of measurement, and the extent to which the objectives for measurement systems fit with the contextual requirements that the organisation faces (e.g. the demands of public sector contracting). Finally, research could offer critical and developmental perspectives on current practices (social audit, social return on investment, etc.).
- Stakeholder involvement and social innovation: research on perspectives on social innovation that give priority to stakeholder involvement is welcome. In particular, research on the following topics – all of which require high-quality, solid research to illuminate this dimension of the field – is of clear interest: user-driven social innovation (which has already received considerable research interest); volunteer involvement (which is a potentially interesting area); and the involvement of stakeholders (for example through systems of co-production and co-governance). Also questions and reflections on gender, generation, social and cultural capital for stakeholder involvement and its implications for social innovation are relevant.
- Resources: financial institutions and instruments for social innovation. There is a huge interest and substantial progress in certain countries in moving towards developing effective capital markets for social enterprises, improving the latter’s access to mainstream capital, and exploring innovative financial instruments. There is also considerable experience of developing relevant institutions for community finance (e.g. community development financial initiatives), but research is required on how innovative such developments are, and on factors which influence social innovation.
- Scaling up and learning models of social innovation. Research could focus on the issue of overcoming initial financial, regulatory, and recognition barriers for the development of social innovation, as well as identifying and exploiting incentives for social innovation and the actors, organisations and networks associated with it; in addition to actors, organisations and networks, processes of partnerships and collaboration can facilitate scaling-up processes (via internet tools or otherwise); other models warranting research include social franchising, replication of business models, systems of innovation diffusion, etc. Learning outcomes and learning arenas and how these are related to social entrepreneurship and different models of social innovation are also relevant.