Both the University of Hull and BIMTECH are educational institutions which believe in the relevance of social enterprise creation for addressing a multitude of social ills which plague the countries. In BIMTECH, the Institute is considering the creation of a Centre for Social Enterprise, to enhance the inputs to the Incubation centre which it is currently running. The Institute is also seriously working to mainstream social enterprise as a part of the curricula, for those who are entering into new venture creation. Similarly for the University, the Centre for Systems studies is also proposing to conduct a research in this area. Hence for the two Institutes who are pursuing this joint proposal, there is direct relevance.

Social entrepreneurship is not a newly defined concept simply because social entrepreneurs have been around for a long time (Okpara and Halkias, 2011). The purpose of this project is then twofold: firstly to identify the scope for development of social entrepreneurship with regard to higher education and how this could be enhanced by particular actions of universities today;

In the UK context social enterprises compete in the market place like any other business, no matter their business skills and knowledge to pursue social issues and achieve social goals. For example, the Trees Group is one of the largest social enterprises in the East Midlands with a £8 million turnover and more than 120 staff that exist to support its subsidiary companies in the areas of training, regeneration, education, employment and sustainability (Social Enterprise Coalition, 2003; The Trees Group, 2008). This research should be considered as an initial proactive reaction onto how social entrepreneurship could/should be part of the higher education life and get supported by it.

Broader Rationale for Undertaking this Research

Until recently, the notions of “social entrepreneur”, “social entrepreneurship” and “social enterprise” have been used interchangeably – it was argued that social entrepreneurship was seen as the process through which social entrepreneurs created social enterprises (Defourny and Nyssens 2008). However, a fast growing literature on current research trends noted the development of the notion of social enterprises has been centered on the creation of mechanisms that enable public authorities to contract out of the provision of goods or services that involve the greater public good. In this context – the UK Government defined social enterprises as “businesses with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purpose in the business or in the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximize profit for shareholders and owners” (DTI, 2002).

Most current research has noted that social enterprises are embedded in the third sector, and there is a lack of professionals and research on how can “social enterprise” be developed and integrated in the mainstream of education and economy (Laratta et al. 2011). Most current research lacks a comprehensive discussion on social enterprise sector in India. This research is timely in the sense that given the differences between Indian social enterprise sector and the European counterparts – this research would develop a common understanding in specific contexts in both the regions. Universities and think tanks have contributed in the development evidence based knowledge in social enterprise domain. Also, universities have an essential role to play in growing the next generation of social entrepreneurs. In recent years, in response to student demand, colleges and universities have taken up social entrepreneurship as a field of academic study and more than 148 institutions globally are teaching some aspect of social entrepreneurship (Ashoka Foundation, 2011). This initiative demands an approachable method to engage in the scheme and ability to scale up the idea to create a population which will be able influence the socio-economic engagements, as conceptualised in figure below.

Social Enterprise Ecosystem

The establishment of a social entrepreneurship orientation in an organisation is a vital step towards economic and social growth although it cannot be achieved easily. It is this step that should be obtained first in order for an organisations (a university in the case of this project) attitude towards social entrepreneurship to change. Higher education can be supportive in enhancing social entrepreneurship in policy terms as long as entrepreneurial orientation and attitude towards social entrepreneurship are developed within it. This is an issue that should be under governmental scrutiny, especially now that social entrepreneurship development has begun to get increasingly significant momentum.

Key Initiatives and Work Packages:

This project will provide to academics and practitioners based in India, and UK, who work in systems thinking, sustainability education and the social enterprise sector with the work package, as given below:

Key Initiatives:

  • Forming BIMTECH-Hull Joint Social Enterprise Research Committee (12-16 members) which will include professors, social enterprise professionals, regulators and media representatives.
  • Two Research Group meetings, one each in India and UK on the progress of research and discussions and interactions with the university and social enterprise authorities.

Dissemination in the Academic Community

The project team will submit to leading journals such as the British Academy of Management (targeted theme would be building social enterprise and mainstreaming value creation through curriculum and the entrepreneurial ecosystem in India), and also the in-house research memoranda series at HUBS and BIMTECH.

This application is of strategic importance to both and will provide an opportunity to develop a long-term strategic partnership spanning research and research-led teaching. HUBS and BIMTECH will provide all the necessary institutional support, including (but not limited to) researcher time, senior management involvement, admin support and infrastructure, and this will continue after the project is over. The UK partners in the consortium are already engaged in various collaborative ventures, including an International Symposium in Sustainable Logistics.

New relationships established in India through this project will be sustained through existing networks and research activities. New research ideas will be developed to form proposals for funding where the outputs from this project will be incorporated. In addition, funding from industry will also be sought.