I’ve just returned from an excellent conference at Aston University. Under the aegis of SEFORIS (Social Enterprise as a Force for more Inclusive and Innovative Societies), the conference presented its findings from a survey of over 1000 social enterprises in nine countries. The pan-European project runs from 2014-17. See an extended blog post by the key researchers at ‘Market-Oriented and Mission-Focused: Social Enterprises around the Globe’ . The report is a mixture of qualitative and quantitative and they were reassuringly asserting that there are ‘no numbers without stories and no stories without numbers’.

The project, and its predecessors, represent a response to growing inequalities from the mid-eighties. This growing gap affects the bottom 40%. The research reinforces the view that social enterprise represents a significant part of the economy. Much of it is about creating new markets and innovating.

Some of the key lessons echo those that were in the last blog entry regarding mythologies surrounding social innovation. Johanna Mair from Stanford, reminded us that all too easily social innovation is seen as a panacea. The key points:

  • Incremental improvement often overlooked
  • Failed innovation is undervalued – we must learn from mistakes … and keep making new ones
  • Effort and difficulty required underappreciated
  • Uncertainty must be embraced
  • Innovation does not create impact … it is an investment

Better still, read her article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review .

SEFORIS is launching a MOOC on 1 February 2017. Well worth looking out for.

Dr Mike Calvert

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