Innovation in social enterprises: An intended outcome through an unexpected process

George Tsekouras, Nick Marshall, Jose Christian

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNConference contribution with ISSN or ISBNpeer-review


    Multiple definitions of social enterprise still abound, but as Doherty et al. (2014, p.420) suggest, they typically "draw out … two defining characteristics of SE: the adoption of some form of commercial activity to generate revenue; and the pursuit of social goals". This paper aims to contribute a more detailed and systematic understanding of social enterprise (SE) innovation than currently exists in the literature. Although research on social enterprise has, according to some, reached a new level of maturity, both theoretically and empirically, there are still a number of important gaps (Doherty, Haugh, & Lyon, 2014; Young & Brewer, 2016). Thus, while things have moved on somewhat from earlier controversies about how to define social enterprise (Austin, Stevenson, & Wei-Skillern, 2006; Chell, 2007; Dato-on & Kalakay, 2016; Galera & Borzaga, 2009) and now include a wider range of theoretical perspectives and thematic areas of interest (Dey & Steyaert, 2012, 2018; Maibom & Smith, 2016; Nyssens, 2007; Pinch & Sunley, 2015), there has been little systematic research specifically on the nature of innovation in social enterprise and how far this differs from innovation processes in other domains. In particular, beyond the more general presentation of SEs as socially innovative, there has been very little discussion of the varying types, processes, practices, supporting conditions, and outcomes of innovation in the SE domain. In their extensive review of the SE literature, Doherty et al. (2014, p.423) observe that there are "limited contributions to understanding the determinants and processes of SE innovation and the relative innovativeness of SEs when compared with other organizational forms". The focus of this paper is on laying stronger foundations for making sense of SE innovation, from which such comparisons could subsequently be made. We offer a framework for understanding the nature, influences, and outcomes of SE innovation and we use this framework to interrogate an extensive mixed methods dataset of empirical evidence collected from a three year European-funded research project on social enterprise innovation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publication13th International Conference on Organisational Learning, Knowledge and Capabilities (OLKC)
    Subtitle of host publicationThe human side of Innovation
    Publication statusPublished - 24 Apr 2019
    EventOrganisational Learning and Knowledge Capabilities 2019 Conference: The Human Side of Innovation - The Ship Hotel, Brighton, United Kingdom
    Duration: 24 Apr 201926 Apr 2019


    ConferenceOrganisational Learning and Knowledge Capabilities 2019 Conference
    Abbreviated titleOLKC
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


    • Innovation
    • Social Enterprises


    Dive into the research topics of 'Innovation in social enterprises: An intended outcome through an unexpected process'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this