5EMESconf − Thematic streams and conveners

5EMESconf − Thematic streams and conveners

In order to allow academic debate across fields and disciplines, the conference will be structured along 15 main thematic lines.

1. Social enterprise models in an international perspective


It is now widely accepted that a universally accepted definition of social enterprise will never exist because the latter is generally rooted in contexts and oriented towards goals which may vary a lot. Various schools of thought contribute to shed different lights on the social enterprise/social entrepreneurship phenomenon. However, such a diversity does not prevent researchers to identify social enterprise models shaped by internal factors (such as the social mission, the field of activity or the type of governance) but also by major external driving forces (public policies, scope of the third sector in the country, role of foundations, influence of quite different cultures…).

This thematic line will welcome a large number of contributions which are being prepared within the framework of “the International Comparative Social Enterprise Models (ICSEM) Project” led by EMES but all researchers working on those issues are also welcome to submit a paper. It will also be an opportunity to develop comparative analysis as well as to propose alternative approaches to SE models.

2. Social innovation


Social innovation has its roots in a cross-disciplinary tradition of social science. It is caused by change agents who are able to connect their ideas and values to the interests of larger parts of the population and pave the way for institutional change. Research in recent years has explored the role of social enterprises, third sector organisations and networks as agents of economic and social change, as well as its relationship to welfare systems. Social innovation can be studied in terms of the different meanings and traditions associated with the concept, the ways it may be promoted within the public, private for-profit or third sectors, the historical contexts and the ecosystems where it flourishes and expands, the different approaches to social change, the different phases of the innovation cycle, the issues emerging in specific phases of the cycle, such as scaling and impact.

The EMES conference welcomes papers that explore the dynamics and effects of social innovation, the role of change agents and its position in broader social change.

3. Social impact, value creation and performance


  • Andrea Bassi (University of Bologna, Italy)
  • Luise Li Langergard (Roskilde University, Denmark)
  • Kaisu Puumalainen (Lappeenranta University of Technology, Finland)

There is an increasing interest among social enterprise stakeholders regarding their social impact. Their legitimacy and stakeholder relationships depend to a great extent on their ability to create social value. Moreover, the economic and financial crisis has resulted in reduced financial resources both from institutional donors and public administration. This puts additional pressure on social enterprises to adopt assessment systems to evaluate the (social) impact of their activities. There are several challenges to define, quantify and measure social value, as social missions are often multi-faceted and context-specific. Further, the often indirect and long-term nature of the social outcomes make them difficult to evaluate.

Lastly, it is challenging to establish widely applicable and comparable social performance metrics or reporting practices due to the versatile nature of social missions and to the justificatory challenges related to the definition of social values. This thematic line welcomes contributions concentrating e.g. on the definition, measurement principles or practices, metrics, reporting, or implications of social value creation.

4. Financing social enterprises


Finance is traditionally interpreted as the set of tools required for wealth management: however, in a broader sense, financial tools and institutions can be considered instrumental in achieving social goals and guaranteeing the stewardship of the needed assets. Social enterprises differ from traditional businesses in the way they finance their activity as observed both in their capital structure (market or non-market debt, equity from internal or external sources) and in the financing-mix of their operating resources (sales, government grants and contracts, individual gifts, institutional grants, investment income, volunteer resources and in-kind gifts). Studying this difference and complexity will enrich existing theories in corporate finance.

This thematic line aims to better understand the implications of social enterprises characteristics by filling current research gaps identified in the scientific literature: development of specific (new) financial tools or institutions, link between social enterprises life cycle and financing-mix, link between specific financial resources and performance assessment, concepts of risk and return in financing social enterprises.

5. Governance of social enterprises


  • Bernard Enjolras (Institute for Social Research, Norway)
  • Marc Jegers (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium)
  • Silvia Sacchetti (Open University, United Kingdom)

Governance and accountability work towards goal realisation. Social enterprises are characterized by specific governance features such as search for democratic decision-making, participation (including beneficiaries, funders and other stakeholders), co-production, as exemplified by multi-stakeholder boards. We also know that social enterprises differ in aims, capabilities, outcomes and effects, all related to governance. Further, the complexity of stakeholders’ needs require sophisticated coordination within the social value chain. The governance question asks how patrons participate and on what terms, who is responsible for the identification of these needs, for the design of services and for defining division of labour and surplus distribution.

This sub-theme aims at discussing theoretical and empirical contributions on social enterprise governance models. It also welcomes policy analysis on the use of social finance and its implications on social enterprise governance.

6. Social enterprise, human resource management, employment creation and job quality


  • François-Xavier Devetter (University of Lille, France)
  • Francesca Petrella (University of Aix-Marseille, France)
  • Petri Ruuskanen (University of Jyväskylän, Finland)

Within this thematic line, we would like to analyse if social enterprises are characterised by a specific “employment model”, different from capitalist enterprises. Our working hypothesis is that their specific governance system leads to a different employment model.

This thematic line will be aimed at characterising the dimensions what could be called the “employment model” of social enterprises. At this stage, we include in this term the working conditions (type of employment contract, access to training, work-life balance, definition of the taks, autonomy, etc.), the wage policy, the social dialogue and professional relationships, the human resource management. Does their specific governance structure plays a role on these dimension and how?

We will also question the role of the institutional environment and of the territorial context in the development of a specific employment model. International comparisons are welcomed.

7. Public policies, welfare systems and institutionalisation


  • Adalbert Evers (Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen, Germany)
  • Giulia Galera (EURICSE and University of Trento, Italy)
  • Annette Zimmer (University of Münster, Germany)

The topic of how social enterprises and NPOs are integrated into welfare state arrangements has constituted a key concern of scholarship since in the early 1970s. Both, the welfare state and NPOs came along with modernity.

Social enterprises played a pioneering role when industrialization and urbanizations asked for new answers to societal problems. Many of those initiatives, inspired by social entrepreneurship were scaled-up by governments in the process of modernization. Since then, particularly at the local level, social enterprises have been deeply embedded into social service delivery in numerous policy fields.

But, what happens with theses established arrangements in current times of welfare state retrenchment? Are social enterprises still able to contribute significantly to the wellbeing of their local constituencies? Or are they on the retreat and hence undergoing a similar development as the bureaucratic welfare state? Or do they have to jump on the bandwagon of marketization and hence mimicry for-profits?

With a special eye on social enterprises, the panel invites contributions addressing current chances of public policy arrangements in core welfare domains.

8. Critical perspectives on social enterprises (crises of capitalism, gender issues…)


  • Florence Degavre (Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium)
  • Lars Hulgård (Roskilde University, Denmark)
  • Simon Teasdale (Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland, United Kingdom)

Early social enterprise research has done much to develop the prominence of the field in academia and society. However part of this research has been “enthusiastic, generalising, one-dimensional and even self-glorifying”. Policy makers have been quick to seize on the mythical properties of social enterprise and, in some countries at least, have used social enterprise as a justification for a neo-liberal agenda which involves the privatisation of public services and reductions in public welfare spending.

In this stream, we seek research papers which, broadly speaking, adopt a critical approach to popular conceptions and discourse of social enterprise. These papers might include “myth-busting” some of the assumptions built up around social enterprise; exploring and deconstructing the power relationships (for example gender, race, and ideology) in social enterprise discourses and practices, normative critiques which offer an alternative to dominant discourses; critiques which explore how practitioners themselves resist social enterprise discourses and policies; or most imaginatively, interventionist critiques whereby academics work with practitioners to speak out against taken for granted knowledge and construct alternative truths.

9. Social enterprise and sustainable transition


  • Isabella Hatak (WU Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria)
  • Marek Hudon (Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium)
  • Benjamin Huybrechts (HEC-University of Liege, Belgium)

In the transition towards a more environmentally, socially and economically sustainable society, social enterprises play an important role – typically by generating and experimenting innovative and sustainable solutions to societal challenges in the context of “niches” which then aim to be diffused across the broader society. Empirical research has explored this potential of social enterprises in fields such as recycling, short food supply chains, renewable energy, microfinance and social finance, fair trade, etc. Yet, many research avenues remain open and aim to be addressed through this thematic line, including:

  • Sustainable innovations by and within social enterprises.
  • Inter-organizational collaborations associating social enterprises, businesses and/or public authorities in sustainability projects.
  • Contributions of social enterprises and the broader social enterprise eco-system to driving sustainability transition in given fields or territories.

10. Rural perspectives on social enterprise


  • Gayle Broad (Algoma University, Canada)
  • Jane Farmer (La Trobe University, Australia)
  • Mary O’Shaughnessy (University College Cork, Ireland)

Rural and indigenous-based social enterprises are businesses with social objectives and often emerge as a solution to a variety of social, environmental and economic problems including the provision of affordable and accessible services to groups at risk of social and economic exclusion and job creation in rural locations with limited employment opportunities. In theory, it should be possible to replicate such initiatives across all areas.

But is this the case? The stream invites research which illustrates and explains successful examples of rural- and/or Indigenous- based social enterprises and explores their potential for replication in other jurisdictions.

Presentations which explore community-university research partnerships resulting in social enterprise development; Indigenous models of social enterprises; and innovative relationship-building with policy-makers, are also encouraged.

11. Social enterprise in healthcare and social care


  • Cam Donaldson (Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland, United Kingdom)
  • Sakari Kainulainen (Diaconia University of Applied Sciences, Finland)
  • Victor Pestoff (Ersta Sköndal Högskola, Sweden)

In a context of socio-economic, cultural and demographic deep transformations, many societies are facing growing needs in the field of care. Social enterprises have demonstrated their ability to build innovative models to answer these needs. Moreover, with the retrenchment of the welfare state and the growing dominance of New Public Management almost everywhere, the role of the third sector and social enterprises as providers of social services has come back into focus.

This thematic line welcomes research, which explore the potential of social enterprises to address these challenges: are social enterprises competitive in terms of the price or quality of their services? Are social enterprises perhaps just one among many competing private providers or do they have a distinct value added not found in either public or private for-profit services? Do they develop specific mode of governance and financing? Do public policies sufficiently take into account these specificities?

This thematic line welcomes papers and panels that explore social enterprise in health care and social care. In particular, papers that compare providers, sectors, and/or countries are welcome.

12. Poverty reduction and community–led social enterprise


  • Kate Cooney (Yale University, United States)
  • Helen Haugh (University of Cambridge, United Kingdom)
  • P. K. Shajahan (Tata Institute of Social Sciences, India)

The scale of global poverty is overwhelming with almost half of the world living on less than $2.50 a day; over one billion have inadequate access to safe drinking water and nearly 2.6 million lacking basic sanitation. Other aspects of access to shelter, healthcare, elementary education, basic nutrition, and sustaining a liveable income have still a long way to go for millions of people in the world.

Global initiatives on poverty reduction have been mostly centred on creating opportunities for enhanced income/consumption levels and the availability of health and social services. However, such measures have not been able to bring sustainable solutions to the scale and spread of poverty around the globe. It is in this context the social enterprises provide scope for addressing some of the core issues of access, availability and affordability of poverty reduction measures. With the understanding that poverty has strong global forces operating on communities and societies but is locally and individually experienced; community led-social enterprises have the potential to address the immediate concerns of people which empower them to make significant changes in contexts perpetuating poverty.

This theme of the conference is aimed exploring the context, need and the role of community led social enterprises in poverty reduction.

13. New waves on cooperatives


The cooperative movement is changing rapidly. New types of cooperatives are emerging everywhere, opening new perspectives and ideas on how to work together. Papers concerning coopératives, wether traditional or new (social and health care coops, cultural coops, ideas on commons, co-production and co-creation etc.) are welcomed to this thematic line.

Papers may analyze certain types of cooperatives be statistical, empirical or other kind of analyses. They may draw on future perspectives or analyze historical development, concerning, for instance, cooperative management, economics and other developments.

14. Social enterprise and the solidarity economy


  • Luiz Inácio Gaiger (Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos, Brazil)
  • Jean-Louis Laville (Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers/LISE, France)
  • Andreia Lemaître (Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium)

Social and solidarity economy (SSE) initiatives have emerged around the world to face current social, cultural and ecological issues. Depending on the country, various institutional frameworks have appeared. SSE offers income opportunities to popular classes while allowing them to participate in the construction of a new social and ecological equilibrium. However, the processes of recognition of SSE are not easy: tensions can arise between governmental projects and grounded initiatives.

We welcome contributions focusing on SSE institutionalisation processes in different countries, their contributions and their limits. The thematic line also aims to discuss the theoretical and practical originality of such initiatives, articulated in theoretical frameworks which put forward the plurality of economic principles (Polanyi), the public dimension of such initiatives (Habermas, Fraser) or the question of the commons (Ostrom).

15. Social enterprise education, training and learning


  • Jo Barraket (Swinburne University of Technology, Australia)
  • Linda Lundgaard Andersen (Roskilde University, Denmark)
  • Rory Ridley-Duff (Sheffield Hallam University, United Kingdom)

For over two decades, programmes to support social enterprise education have been developing. A number of dedicated texts, accredited and non-accredited courses, exchange programmes and extra-curricula support systems have raised the profile of social enterprise education in schools, colleges and higher education institutions.

In this theme, we welcome papers that critically engage with the theory and practice of social enterprise education inside and outside the university sector.

We welcome research papers on:

  • the explicit/implicit values and principles of social enterprise education;
  • curriculum development for social enterprise / co-operative courses; –
  • the integration of social enterprise / social economy modules into business, non-profit management, charity management and public administration courses;
  • the range and quality of social enterprise teaching materials;
  • innovations in learning and pedagogy/andragogy that support the goals/values of social enterprise education;
  • professional development amongst social enterprise / co-operative business educators;
  • professional development amongst social entrepreneurs, co-operateurs and social enterprise managers;
  • experimental and participatory learning and co-creation: how to include and engage multi-agents and stakeholders across sectors.
What are you interested in?