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Promoting Vibrant Social Enterprise in Southeast Asia

Special issue call for papers from Social Enterprise Journal

Promoting Vibrant Social Enterprise in Southeast Asia

Social entrepreneurship and social enterprise have gained international recognition as a way to address socioeconomic inequalities and to create and sustain social wealth. They are interconnectedly viewed as market oriented means to solve intractable problems (Huybrechts & Nicholls 2012). Despite some substantive geographical convergences, strategies, practices and ethos are often situated in place and culturally configured (Amin 2009; Defourny & Nyssens 2010; Kerlin 2010). Given that ascendant interest in social entrepreneurship and social enterprise was stimulated in the first instance by public policy in Western Europe and the US (Roper & Cheney 2005) there is cause for concern that policy responses to western welfare problems are a poor basis for the analysis  of ‘majority world’ countries (Hackett 2010; Lyne 2017). It is suggested that a distinctively ‘Asian model’, counter-posed to prevalent ones in the USA and Europe, is rooted in human security guarantees and developing business and new markets at the bottom of the economic pyramid (Brown 2014). It is also questionable if the rise of ‘inclusive business’ amongst international development agencies especially, allows the normative orientations of development (i.e. primarily led by the development of free markets) to be altered, thus undermining the full potentiality of innovation (Castresana 2013).

Barring a small amount of region-wide analysis (Dacanay 2009; Santos et al. 2009), social entrepreneurship and social enterprise in Southeast Asia remains understudied, both in comparison to minority world countries and also certain majority world ones, most notably Bangladesh, that garner more attention. This special issue stems from a forthcoming conference – ‘Promoting Social Vibrant Social Entrepreneurship’ – convened by Social Entrepreneurship in Southeast Asia (SESA) network that strives to more fully explore the potentiality of social enterprise and entrepreneurship in this region of the world. We invite papers to be submitted in accordance with our conference track themes as follows:

Theoretical models of social entrepreneurship, social innovation and social enterprise: While management disciplines continue to be the prevalent lens, we are keen on contributions that build upon the later trend for ‘connective research’, harnessing interdisciplinary perspectives and disciplines to instil more complexity into theorizing vis-à-vis social change objectives (Steyaert & Dey 2010).  Including management and organization studies, what insights might be drawn for instance from political science, sociology, economic sociology, social work, or economic geography to help our understanding of social entrepreneurship, social innovation and social enterprise in Southeast Asia? How have theoretical models been grounded in practice and responded to social, cultural, economic and political realities in the country and/or region? How do such insights help our understanding from a complex systems point of view? How can models be communicated in ways that are useful to policy makers, development practitioners, educators and community members?

Strategies for social inclusion via social enterprise and social entrepreneurship: Socially entrepreneurial approaches to the work integration of disadvantaged groups, via training and employment, have gained in stature in Southeast Asian countries. While this approach is studied widely for instance in Europe (Nyssens 2010), the evidence base across Southeast Asia is under-published barring country-specific papers (Ty & Anurit 2009). We are interested in papers addressing economic initiatives to integrate street children, vulnerable women and people living with disabilities (among other disadvantaged groups) into society. We are also interested in initiatives promoting opportunities for female entrepreneurs. Papers on inclusive tourism are welcome, as are theoretical contributions from a capabilities perspective along with contributions integrating human resource analysis into the balance between enterprises’ productivity and their social inclusiveness.

Impact measurement and scaling impact in the social entrepreneurship and social innovation spaces: One of the concerns in the social entrepreneurship literature is how to move from small scale impacts to larger, replicable impact either delivered directly by a social enterprise, or via the wider dissemination of an innovative idea which changes the way that markets work (Dees 2008). On the basis of extensive international research, it is also suggested that industrial narratives of efficiency combined with strategies to incorporate micro-credit services and extend productive capacities and the consumption of goods and services, underlie socially entrepreneurial ventures that are both scalable and replicable (Mair et al. 2012). To what extent are markets the main means by which scale and impact is achieved by social enterprise in Southeast Asia? What possibilities lie beyond the markets, through civil society or engagement with government policy? What is the utility of impact metrics such as Social Return of Investment in this region of the world? Do metrics help improve the scale of impact and if so how? What areas of organizational capacity are particularly critical to the process of ‘scaling’ social enterprise and entrepreneurship? We welcome critically engaged research which employs qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods.

Social entrepreneurship and social innovation education programs: Since the turn of the millennium effort has been directed at accelerating the number of social entrepreneurs and further developing their competencies. Education programs have been delivered by Universities and colleges with adapted business, entrepreneurship and innovation programs (Tracey & Phillips 2007) and also via specific ‘schools’ for social entrepreneurs that are sometimes imitated by foundations with the support of Government authorities (Conway 2008; McNeill 2013). Creative ‘laboratories’ have been established internationally to nurture fledgling social ventures into functional realities (Friedman & Sharir 2009). Evidence for such programs in the Southeast Asian region is under-researched to date, although this is not to say that there is a lack of them. How can academics and deliverers of business mentoring programs transcend generic offerings by tailoring them to the needs of the social enterprise sector?  What are the challenges presented by helping grant dependent organisations make a successful transition into earned revenue strategies? (Conway 2008). What are the emerging effective practices in curriculum development and teaching strategies in the fields of social entrepreneurship and social enterprise? What are the distinctive challenges and issues entailed in teaching entrepreneurs who wish to combine social objectives and commercial ones? (Tracey & Phillips 2007). We invite papers based on education programs within the region and also internationally if they can provide insight into success factors and lessons to be learned that can be extended into education practice in Southeast Asia.

Sustainability, governance and responsiveness of social entrepreneurship and social enterprises: Sustainability, governance and responsiveness to the social needs of constituencies, sometimes including environmental concerns, are interconnected themes. The financial and social sustainability of social enterprises depends on public support and thus responsiveness to constituencies via market mechanisms (Dees 1998) or, much evidence shows, via modes of inclusive and accountable governance (Campi et al. 2006). Additionally, the mixed resource dimension of social enterprises has extended the meaning of sustainability to broader considerations of sustainable, resilient economies that place high value on situated, diverse economic practices together with bricolage and entrepreneurial approaches to community development (Gibson et al. 2010; Kunnen et al. 2013). What are the key sustainability challenges facing social enterprises in Southeast Asia, given the widespread use of market strategies and decreasing dependency on aid? What issues does this present for the management of a double or triple bottom line and social enterprise governance? Does the concept of the bottom line stand up to closer scrutiny? When we think about sustainability, how are we to interpret ‘social value’ in a manner that is sensitive to context? What are the roles of policy development in fostering sustainability, governance and responsiveness of social entrepreneurship and social enterprise?

Cross-sectoral alliances and strategic collaboration to promote support for social entrepreneurship: Alliances to support social entrepreneurship have been strengthened by networks that encompass social enterprise and entrepreneurship foundations, along with University business schools, business consultancies, policy making and the corporate social responsibility functions of numerous large companies world-wide. However, it is also observable that well-resourced organizations exert excessive influence, in pursuit of vast resources that can be attracted once their specific approach and vision gains unanimous acceptance. This leaves less well-resourced actors within networks latching onto public policy initiatives in pursuit of meagre resources, rather than engaging with policy from critical perspectives and dominant narratives of social entrepreneurship tend to go unchallenged (Nicholls 2010). While alliances and strategic cooperation has been detailed fairly well in Bangladesh, we are keen to receive papers setting out both broad and specific alliances and collaborations have developed in Southeast Asia. Who are the players and what are their goals especially in terms of a particular approach to social entrepreneurship?  Do they converge or diverge among themselves and in relation to other lesser-known collaborations? Are important voices being included or left out by strategic networks? How have alliances and strategic cooperation cultivated and promoted effective policy, practice and education and training?

Use of technologies in social entrepreneurship practice: Much discussion around social entrepreneurship focuses on how to leverage technologies for social change via market mechanisms. In particular, on how innovative, low-cost equipment is being developed to improve the health and resources of the poor in ‘bottom of the pyramid countries.’ Extending mobile telecommunications and associated knowledge and money transfer applications are positively appraised as routes out of poverty via inclusion, in the latter instance not least by researchers with an interest in these technologies’ proliferation (Suri & Jack 2016). Other examples include environmentally friendly human waste management, innovative means of delivering off-grid solar electricity and adaptive, low cost optometry (Voelcker 2006). Some products are developed by innovative NGOs before being transferred to a social enterprise. Some activity is supported by impact investing firms (for instance Grey Ghost Ventures in the United States and Insitor Management in Luxembourg). Western international development agencies (for instance the World Bank’s Development Marketplace) also support this via incubation for ‘development innovations’ and support to host governments. We invite papers that critically assess the social/environmental contribution of technologies as well as the practicalities of developing them. What time frames can a payback be envisaged over and how quickly is financial sustainability plausible? Can product users be easily persuaded to part with money? What kind of marketing and financing strategies help dissemination? How can production methods also be socially inclusive and what kind of local technologies and resources can also be harnessed in the production process?

Articles considered for the special edition will be developed purely out of papers presented at the forthcoming conference – Promoting Vibrant Social Enterprise in Southeast Asia – taking place in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, from the 22nd-24th May 2017. Conference details can be found at The deadline for conference abstracts is 31st March 2017. The deadline for submission of fully developed papers for the special edition is 1st December 2017.

For further information about the call for conference abstracts and papers for the special edition please contact by email either: Dr. Hieu Ngo, [email protected]; Dr. Janelle Kerlin, [email protected]; Dr. Sothy Khieng, [email protected] or Isaac Lyne, [email protected]


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