SEFORÏS paper puts forward a positive view of how Welfare States and Solidarity enable Social Entrepreneurship and wins Best Paper award at leading Entrepreneurship conference

SEFORÏS paper puts forward a positive view of how Welfare States and Solidarity enable Social Entrepreneurship and  wins Best Paper award at the leading Entrepreneurship conference (BCERC).

The paper is entitled “The welfare state and social entrepreneurship: insights from a multi-level study of European Regions”. Authors are Aston University academics Emma Folmer, Anna Rebmann and Ute Stephan.

Emma, Anna and Ute investigate the relationship between solidarity attitudes and social entrepreneurship. National welfare states are an expression of solidarity. They aim to redistribute income and life chances. In turn, how extensive and ‘compassionate’ national welfare systems are depends in part on citizen’s attitudes toward solidarity including redistribution. Indeed in many countries the welfare state has increasingly come under pressure and has been downsized or ‘rolled back’ considerably (even before the 2008 financial crisis). Governments especially in developed economies increasingly see social businesses as complementing or even replacing welfare state interventions. They thus seem to expect that social enterprises will ‘fill the gap’ left by government welfare programmes.

However, we do not know much about how social entrepreneurship is related to support for and the configuration of the welfare state. Does solidarity, the foundation of the welfare state, also drive social entrepreneurship? If people support the welfare state, and thus the idea of redistribution, does that make them more likely to engage in social entrepreneurship? And if the welfare state works well, are people still inclined to start social businesses? Is it the case that large welfare states lead to complacency – if welfare states ‘take care’ of social needs then social enterprises are not needed –; or may there be spillover effects such that more expansive welfare state signal to their citizens that ‘it is good to care’ and stimulate social entrepreneurship?

The team analysed data from the European Social Survey and the Flash Euro Barometer on entrepreneurship to answer these questions. They focussed on a subset of social entrepreneurs, those that form as businesses but with a clear goal to create social or environmental benefits. As there is evidence for growing regional socioeconomic inequalities within Europe, the research took a regional perspective (while controlling for country differences).

Emma, Anna and Ute find that there are more social entrepreneurs in regions where people have more positive attitudes toward welfare state redistribution. They also observe more social entrepreneurs in regions where the welfare state is performing well. Thus, individuals are more likely to become social entrepreneurs in areas where social problems are seen as collective problems, as something that all members of society bear some responsibility for. This is in contrast with views that argue for trade-offs and suggest that welfare states may crowd out individual’s social initiative. Rather, the positive relationship between welfare state performance and the regional share of social entrepreneurship that the current study finds, means that a ‘rolling back of the state’ by itself will not result in alternative social service provision by social enterprises. A well-functioning welfare state allows social entrepreneurs to thrive. 

The 1st IESE-LUISS Conference on Responsibility, Sustainability and Social Entrepreneurship

Hybrid Organisations: walking at the edge between economic performance and social & environmental impact

Hybrid Organisations: walking at the edge between economic performance and social & environmental impact

The 1st IESE-LUISS Conference on Responsibility, Sustainability and Social Entrepreneurship
18-19 April 2017, Rome Italy 

This conference, possibly the first of a series, is aimed at gathering scholars from different literature streams interested in highlighting the mechanisms through which hybridity is created and sustained. To give more substance to the debate we asked key scholars in the field –among them Johanna MairAnne Claire PacheGuido PalazzoTommaso Ramus and Ute Stephan, who already accepted our invitation- to join us and present their work. To give more visibility to the research discussed at the conference, we proposed to the Journal of Business Ethics, one of the leading journals in the field, to create a Thematic Symposium on these themes linked to the conference.

This call for papers aims at generating a conference exploring how organisational hybridity is created and sustained, with particular reference to social enterprises. 

Call for papers! 
Submission deadline [EXTENDED]: 20/01/2017



EXCEPTIONAL SPEAKERS: Johanna Mair (SEFORÏS) , Anne Claire Pache, Guido Palazzo, Tommaso Ramus and Ute Stephan (SEFORÏS).

SPECIAL ISSUE: The Journal of Business Ethics will create a Thematic Symposium linked to the conference.

EXTENSIVE DISCUSSION OF YOUR WORK: Each paper will be allocated a large slot for presentation and Q&A. In each parallel session a discussant -asked to read the papers in advance- will give feedback. 

DEVELOPING SCHOLARSHIP: The conference hosts a Ph.D. and Early Career Symposium.

Do women earn less, even as social entrepreneurs?

According to a recent study, of which we published a summary in our news section in September 2015, female CEOs earn 29% less than their male counterparts.

Gender differences in pay are ever-present at all organisational levels. As CEOs of their own organisations, entrepreneurs largely determine their own pay. In addition, social entrepreneurship may be a particularly gender-blind occupational choice; evidence indicates that women are more likely to start a social enterprise.

Do women at the top of social enterprises see a gender pay gap? 

Saul Estrin (London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)), Ute Stephan (Aston University - Aston Business School) and  Suncica Vujic (VU University Amsterdam - Faculty of Economics and Business Administration) share the outcomes of their research in the interview below.

Fruitful SEFORÏS consortium meeting at Aston University (video)

SEFORÏS team at Aston Business School

SEFORÏS team at Aston Business School

Together the SEFORÏS consortium members are nearly finished with the survey of over 1.000 directors of social enterprises in Russia, China and Europe. The meeting at Aston University was an important to compare notes on this massive data collection on the role and behaviour of social enterprises. SEFORÏS wants to ensure the high quality of the data that allows for meaningful analysis in countries and between the several countries. In the spring of 2016 SEFORÏS will publish reports with first indicators on the field of social entrepreneurship within each of the participating countries: China, Germany, Hungary, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Respective country teams also presented their academic work based on the conducted case studies earlier in the project and together they explored the opportunities for cross-country analysis of cases. Professor Ute Stephan, principal investigator and member of the Academic Advisory Board of SEFORÏS, kindly summarised the present status of the research at the end of the meeting:

New research outlines the ingredients for a successful ‘Big Society’

Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen, Denmark

Research disproves the theory that reducing government support will boost social enterprise. A recently published 'Institutions and Social Entrepreneurship' study by academics from Aston Business School, EDHEC Business School, and the University of Sheffield Management School identifies why some countries are better than others at fostering social enterprise.

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) ranks Denmark number one for social entrepreneurship activity[1]. The study sought to identify the secret of Denmark's success and what other countries, such as the UK, could learn from its example. The authors analysed 26 countries to identify the relative importance of a range of economic, institutional, cultural and social measures in encouraging greater levels of social entrepreneurship.

These included:

  • the level of active government support, i.e., the extent to which the government formally redistributes wealth through progressive tax structures and welfare spending[2]
  • the level of so-called 'post-materialist values' among individuals, i.e., the extent to which individuals feel willing and empowered to take action for the benefit of society[3]; and
  • socially supportive culture, i.e., the strength of informal networks in the wider community[4]

The results of the analysis demonstrate that it is a combination of these three factors, not any one factor alone, that best encourages social enterprise activity. However, active government support is crucial: Without this support it is unlikely that individuals and communities can mobilise to fill the gap.

Key findings:

Seven out of the top ten countries for social entrepreneurship also top the list for strong social entrepreneurship support, e.g., a local culture and government that endorse such activity, as illustrated by the table below.

Top 10 countries for social entrepreneurship activity (GEM)

  • 1. Denmark
  • 2. Argentina
  • 3. Finland
  • 4. UK
  • 5. Slovenia
  • 6. United States
  • 7. Israel
  • 8. France
  • 9. Greece
  • 10. China

Top 10 countries for social entrepreneurship support[5]

  1. Denmark
  2. Italy
  3. Netherlands
  4. Finland
  5. United States
  6. UK
  7. Switzerland
  8. France
  9. Slovenia
  10. Israel

Study highlights:

  • Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Israel rank highest for government support
  • Switzerland, Italy, the UK, US and Argentina rank highest for post-materialist values among individuals
  • Malaysia, Iran and Russia rank amongst the top five countries for having a socially supportive culture but have relatively low levels of government support. This can explain why these countries rank lower for social enterprise activity (25th, 19th, and 24th, respectively)

Compared to other nations, the UK relies more heavily on individuals to drive social entrepreneurship activity, based on a relatively high ranking for post-materialistic values amongst its citizens (3rd) and less favourable rankings for government support (10th), and socially supportive culture (17th).

Ute Stephan, Professor of Entrepreneurship at Aston Business School commented: “Broadly speaking there have been two schools of thought about the extent to which government encourages or stifles social entrepreneurship. Some feel that too much support removes the demand for social enterprise while others have taken the opposite view – that social entrepreneurship must have institutional support to survive.

“Things are never so black and white, but the importance of a supportive climate may explain some of the challenges facing the UK's Big Society initiative, despite the UK's strong post-materialist values. Cultivating such an eco-system is likely to be a longer term process. It is also a process that spending cuts and rising social inequalities in the UK likely undermine".

Lorraine Uhlaner, Professor of Entrepreneurship at EDHEC Business School concluded:“Our study highlights that the additional demand for social enterprise created when there are radical cuts in the state sector, such as those seen in many countries in response to the global economic crisis, do not translate into higher social entrepreneurship activity.

“Social entrepreneurs need to feel supported both by the government and the wider community to be able to realise their aims, which is why countries like Denmark perform so strongly. Private individuals and groups, if they collaborate and support each other, can make a difference but will only thrive with effective government support".

[1] Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (2009)

[2] Analysis of information on government activism (2008) based on a model developed and validated by Aidis et al.(2012)

[3] Based on World Values Survey (2010)

[4] Based on GLOBE cultural practices data (1995-1997)

[5] Includes all three measures plus GDP performance rankings