How can social innovation challenge the degree of empowerment? The case of the first social enterprise empowering artisanal fishermen in Peru

How can social innovation challenge the degree of empowerment? The case of the first social enterprise empowering artisanal fishermen in Peru
Hellen López-Valladares

ESCP-7EMES-12 | López-Valladares 2019


Social innovation and its process has been studied from different perspectives in recent years. One approach is to understand the entire process of social innovation and its outcomes. Since social innovation deals with complex systems for social change, the impact and outcomes cannot be captured by conventional evaluation reports, profitability or growth in market share. As an alternative, the analysis of the empowerment as a result and process of social innovation gives an integrated way to understand this phenomenon because it shows the interaction of two concepts: agency and opportunity structure. This paper seeks to answer how social innovation can challenge the degree of empowerment of individuals? By doing so, it uses the empowerment framework by Alsop-Bertelsen-Holland (2006) and analyses the level of assets and the formal and informal institutions in the context of social entrepreneurship. The research suggest that social innovation increases the level of assets of individuals such as social, human, financial and environmental assets. It also emphasize the importance to start the process of social innovation with the identification of the team capabilities along with the recognition of networks in more than one phase.


  • Social innovation
  • Empowerment
  • Social innovation process
  • Social enterprise
  • Artisanal fishermen
  • Social business


Social innovation have been broadly discussed by the academia and professionals seeking for its dynamics and its contribution to social challenges. Although, social innovation is considered a practice-led field because it has developed with ill-defined boundaries, meanings and definitions (Evers, Ewert, and Taco, 2014), there are some agreement in the definitions by the academia referring to, new ideas that meet unmet needs (Mulgan et al. 2007) and how it enhances society’s capacity to act (BEPA, 2010). To achieve social change, social innovation can take different paths because of the complexity of social change. Some authors agree that the starting point of a social innovation is an idea of a need that is not being met (Mulgan et al. 2007; Pol & Ville, 2009) and from there, it could fail attempts, make improvements and or achieve of results. The literature has focused to determine the phases or stages of the process of social innovation, however, there have been few analysis in the barriers and enablers of the process during designing, diffusing and supporting.

The path of ideas meet with several actors and an environment with formal and informal institutions that can shape the solution and have an influence in the results. The main actor are the social enterprises, hybrid organizations that combat a shared problem in the society. Social enterprises aim to benefit the community where profit distribution to external investors is limited (Defourny & Nyssens, 2013). This actor have learned to operate across the ecosystem and social innovation is one of its tool to generate, develop and scale ideas that become into solutions.

Since social sector organizations operate in a complex system and ‘are characterized by a diversity of resource inputs, and multiple, distinctive, non-comparable outputs’ (Nicholls, 2010) there is a need to contribute in understanding how social enterprises achieve its results and what kind of outcomes they obtain in each phase of the social innovation process. This research look to find out the outcomes of social innovation process through the lenses of empowerment and the barriers and enablers that social enterprises have to sort out. To do so, it discusses existing definitions of social innovation process and the empowerment framework. After that, it studies a case study of a social enterprise who works with artisanal fishermen in Peru and discusses the strategies for the accumulation of assets, the interaction with the opportunity structure and their social innovation process. The final section offers some concluding remarks and future research.

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