Collaborative approaches to advancing SDGs through social enterprise


Guest Editors:

Dr. Chantal Hervieux ([email protected]); Associate Professor, Saint Mary’s University, Canada
Dr. Catherine Pearl ([email protected]); Assistant Professor, Mount Royal University, Canada
Dr. Margaret McKee ([email protected]); Associate Professor, Saint Mary’s University, Canada
Michael Kennedy ([email protected]) Lecturer, Acadia University, Canada

About the topic

Five years ago, countries across the globe adopted the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outlined within it (United Nations, 2012). It is widely acknowledged that the SDGs may only be attained through collaborative efforts by actors across sectors. Arguments have been made by (for example) Social Enterprise UK that social enterprise holds an important role in achieving these ambitious global goals (Social Enterprise UK, 2015).

The role of the mainstream, for profit sector in addressing the SDGs has been the subject of numerous studies (e.g. Scheyvens et al., 2016; Agarwal et al., 2017; Pedersen, 2018). However, there has been limited work to date that seeks to understand the role of social enterprise in meeting the SDGs. Notable exceptions include Littlewood and Holt (2018) presenting a conceptual framework on how social enterprises can contribute to the SDGs, and Günzel-Jensen et al’s (2020) recent examination of ‘bottom up’ approaches to addressing the goals by socially entrepreneurial ventures. Work at the intersection of SDGs and the social and solidarity economy has been of increasing interest to the United Nations itself (United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Social and Solidarity Economy, 2019) and research at the interface of SDGs and social enterprise has focused on such topics as: exploring the role of cooperatives in attaining the SDGs (Gicheru, 2016); the potential of social enterprise tourism to contribute to SDGs (Sheldon et al., 2017); and Schumpterian analysis of the respective roles of social agents in meeting SDGs (Rahdari et al., 2016).

This special issue thus aims to contribute towards addressing gaps in knowledge, theory and practice about the role of social enterprise in meeting the SDGs. We invite empirical and conceptual papers addressing this subject, particularly on the following topics, although this list is not exhaustive:

Public Policy

What is the role of public policy in supporting social enterprise toward attaining SDGs? What are best and promising practices in this arena? What lessons might we learn from the pursuit of SDGs in other sectors? What might we learn from collaborative approaches to meeting the SDGs “predecessor” targets, the Millennium Development Goals? What is the role of ‘the state’ in encouraging or co-ordinating actions by social enterprises towards achievement of the Goals?

Indigenous Knowledge

We have noted growing interest in Indigenous social enterprise and its role in attaining the SDGs (Henry & Dana, 2019; Sengupta et al., 2019; Yap & Watene, 2019). What are the roles and potential impacts of Indigenous-led social enterprise in attaining the SDGs? How might Indigenous knowledge be drawn upon to attain the SDGs?

Impact Measurement

Recent papers in the social enterprise journal have explored alternative avenues to impact assessment, including the use of a systems approach (Hervieux & Voltan, 2019). What are best and promising practices in impact measurement supporting social enterprise in measuring their progress toward SDGs? How might complexity theory inform how we measure and evaluate progress toward the SDG?

Cooperatives and Solidarity Economy

The role of cooperatives and the overall social and solidarity economy in contributing to the SDGs has also been a widening area of inquiry (Bianchi & Vieta, 2019; Gicheru, 2016; Schroeder et al., 2019; United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Social and Solidarity Economy, 2019). Potential research questions might include: What is the role of cooperatives and the social and solidarity economy in contributing to the SDGs? How might cooperative approaches to addressing SDGs differ between the global north and south?


Building on the Social Enterprise Journal’s recent special issue on social enterprise and networks (Littlewood & Khan, 2018), we see an opportunity to offer more perspectives on the role of networks in attaining the SDGs. Potential questions might include: what is the role of social networks in social enterprises contributing to SDGs? What opportunities exist for social enterprise to leverage existing and emerging networks to contribute to SDGs?


Finally, work offering contributions to an understanding of the role of the academy in supporting social enterprise in their pursuit of SDGs is welcome. We welcome papers addressing such questions as: What is the role of academia in supporting the social enterprise sector in meeting the SDGs? How might the social enterprise sector best leverage academia in making progress toward SDGs, and vice versa? How do social entrepreneurs view the increasing “dabbling” of academia into social entrepreneurship through programming, labs and more? What are the unique pedagogical challenges, opportunities and best practices in teaching in social enterprise to tackle SDGs? What opportunities exist for work-integrated and service learning related to social enterprise and the SDGs?

Submissions and Contacts

  • Inquiries should be directed to the special issue editors: Dr. Chantal Hervieux [email protected], Michael Kennedy [email protected], Dr. Margaret McKee ([email protected]) or Dr. Catherine Pearl [email protected]
  • The deadline for the initial paper submissions is January 31st, 2022. If you would like early feedback from the guest editors on draft papers, please send your draft paper to [email protected] by August 31st, 2021.
  • Submitted papers should follow SEJ submission guidelines and be written in good English to be fully considered.  The submitted papers will go through the usual double-blind review process as per the guidelines of the Journal. Submissions to this special issue must be made through the Social Enterprise Journal’s ScholarOne submission system. When submitting your paper, please ensure that the correct Special Issue is selected from the dropdown menu on page 4 of the submission process.

The special issue editors will also be running a two-day Academic Symposium at the 2021 Social Enterprise World Forum at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, on the 16th and 17th November 2021.

•    The Symposium theme is: Better Together: Collaborative approaches to advancing SDGs through social enterprise and will feature streams on 1) advancing social enterprise research and knowledge translation 2) advancing social enterprise teaching and learning and 3) advancing social enterprise sector collaboration.
•    Submitters to the special issue are encouraged to also submit to this event, although this is not compulsory. 


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Bianchi, Michele, and Marcelo Vieta. “Italian Community Co-Operatives Responding to Economic Crisis and State
Withdrawal a New Model for Socio-Economic Development.” SSRN Electronic Journal, 2019.
Gicheru, P. E. (2016). The Role of the co-operative enterprise model in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Least Developed Countries (LDCs). 22.
Günzel-Jensen, Franziska, Nicole Siebold, Arne Kroeger, and Steffen Korsgaard. “Do the United Nations’
Sustainable Development Goals Matter for Social Entrepreneurial Ventures? A Bottom-up Perspective.” Journal of Business Venturing Insights 13 (June 1, 2020): e00162.
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