Social Enterprise Innovation: A Quantitative Analysis of Global Patterns

  • Thema Monroe-White
  • Sandy Zook


Social enterprise and innovation are inextricably linked in the literature (Chell et al. in Entrepr Reg Dev 22(6):485–493, 2010; Dees in Harv Bus Rev 76:54, 1998; Light in Stanf Soc Innov Rev 4(3):47–51, 2006). To date, research on social enterprise innovation has predominantly focused on micro-level factors, such as the social entrepreneur or organizational attributes. Inversely, recent empirical advances on social enterprise find a country’s social enterprise sector is influenced by macro-institutional factors, including form of government, stage of economic development, culture and model of civil society (Monroe-White and Coskun, in: Shaping social enterprise: understanding institutional context and influence, Emerald Publishing Limited, London, pp 27–48, 2017). Given the link between social enterprise and innovation, recent empirical findings around social enterprise beg the question, do macro-institutional factors similarly predict innovation by social enterprises? This paper uses a hierarchical linear model to examine the influence of national-level variables on social enterprise innovation. Results indicate that similar to social enterprise, macro-institutional factors predict social enterprise innovation. More specifically, macro-institutional factors influence the various types of innovations (product, process and marketing) differently. Moreover, country-level innovation is traditionally defined by economic factors, such as R&D funding and STEM workforce, however, these factors do not help explain social enterprise innovation. Given the social aspects of social enterprise innovation, to capture the full scope of innovation within countries, expanded definitions of national-level innovation should be considered.


Social enterprise Innovation Entrepreneurship National Innovation Systems 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Alemdar, M. (2008). A Monte Carlo study: The impact of missing data in cross-classification random effects models. Doctoral dissertation, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA.Google Scholar
  2. Alvarez, S. A., & Barney, J. B. (2007). Discovery and creation: Alternative theories of entrepreneurial action. Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, 1(1–2), 11–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anand, S., & Segal, P. (2008). What do we know about global income inequality? Journal of Economic Literature, 46(1), 57–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Andersson, F. O., & Ford, M. R. (2016). Social entrepreneurship through an organizational ecology lens: Examining the emergence and evolution of the voucher school population in Milwaukee. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 27(4), 1760–1780.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Austin, J., Stevenson, H., & Wei-Skillern, J. (2006). Social and commercial entrepreneurship: Same, different, or both? Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 30, 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bacq, S., & Janssen, F. (2011). The multiple faces of social entrepreneurship: A review of definitional issues based on geographical and thematic criteria. Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, 23(5–6), 373–403.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Baron, R. A. (2006). Opportunity recognition as pattern recognition: How entrepreneurs “connect the dots” to identify new business opportunities. Academy of Management Perspectives, 20(1), 104–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Borzaga, C., & Defourny, J. (Eds.). (2001). Conclusions. Social enterprises in Europe: A diversity of initiatives and prospects. In The emergence of social enterprise. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  9. Bosma, N., Coduras, A., Litovsky, Y., & Seaman, J. (2012). GEM Manual: A report on the design, data and quality control of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. GEM Manual. Retrieved January 6, 2013, from
  10. Chahine, T. (2016). Introduction to social entrepreneurship. CRC Press.Google Scholar
  11. Chell, E., Nicolopoulou, K., & Karataş-Özkan, M. (2010). Social entrepreneurship and enterprise: International and innovation perspectives. Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, 22(6), 485–493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cozzens, S. (2007). Distributive justice in science and technology policies. Science and Public Policy, 34(2), 85–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cozzens, S., Bobb, K., & Bortagaray, I. (2002). Evaluating the distributional consequences of science and technology policies and programs. Research Evaluation, 11, 101–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cozzens, S., & Kaplinsky, R. (2009). Innovation, poverty and inequality: Cause, coincidence, or co-evolution? In B. A. Lundvall, K. J. Joseph, C. Chaminade, & J. Vang (Eds.), Handbook of innovation systems and developing countries. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.Google Scholar
  15. Dacanay, M. L. (2004). Creating a Space in the Market: Social Enterprise Stories from Asia. Asian Institute of Management: Conference of Asian Foundations and Organizations, Makati City, Philippines.Google Scholar
  16. de Sherbinin, A., Reuben, A., Levy, M. A., & Johnson, L. (2013). Indicators in practice: How environmental indicators and being used in policy and management contexts. New Haven and New York: Yale and Columbia Universities Press.Google Scholar
  17. Dees, J. G. (1998). Enterprising nonprofits. Harvard Business Review, 76, 54–69.Google Scholar
  18. Defourny, J., & Nyssens, M. (2008). Social enterprise in Europe: Recent trends and developments. Social Enterprise Journal, 4(3), 202–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Defourny, J., & Nyssens, M. (2010). Conceptions of social enterprise and social entrepreneurship in Europe and the United States: Convergences and divergences. Journal of Social Entrepreneurship, 1(1), 32–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Defourny, J., & Nyssens, M. (2012). Conceptions of social enterprise in Europe: A comparative perspective with the United States. In B. Gidron & Y. Hasenfeld (Eds.), Social enterprises: An organizational perspective. London: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  21. Defourny, J., & Nyssens, M. (2017). Fundamentals for an international typology of social enterprise models. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 28(6), 2469–2497.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Dietrich, M., Znotka, M., Guthor, H., & Hilfinger, F. (2016). Instrumental and non-instrumental factors of social innovation adoption. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 27(4), 1950–1978.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Dyer, J. H., Gregersen, H. B., & Christensen, C. (2008). Entrepreneur behaviors, opportunity recognition, and the origins of innovative ventures. Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, 2(4), 317–338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Enders, C., & Tofighi, D. (2007). Centering predictor variables in cross-sectional multilevel models: A new look at an old issue. Psychological Methods, 12(12), 121–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Fagerberg, J., & Godinho, M. (2005). Innovation and catching up. In J. Fagerberg, D. C. Mowery, & R. R. Nelson (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of innovation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Feinson, S. (2003). National innovation systems overview and country cases. In P. Center for Science, and Outcomes (Ed.), Knowlegde Flows, innovation, and learning in developing countries (Vol. 1, pp. 13–38). Global Inclusion Program of the Rockefeller Foundation.Google Scholar
  27. Fowler, A. (2000). NGDOs as a moment in history: Beyond aid to social entrepreneurship or civic innovation? Third World Quarterly, 21(4), 637–654.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Furman, J. L., Porter, M. E., & Stern, S. (2002). The determinants of national innovative capacity. Research Policy, 31, 899–933.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Galera, G., & Borzaga, C. (2009). Social enterprise: An international overview of its conceptual evolution and legal implementation. Social Enterprise Journal, 5(3), 210–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Goodman, J. S., & Blum, T. C. (1996). Assessing the non-random sampling effects of subject attrition in longitudinal research. Journal of Management, 22(4), 627–652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Guo, C., & Bielefeld, W. (2014). Social entrepreneurship: An evidence-based approach to creating social value. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  32. Hatch, M. J., & Cunliffe, A. L. (2006). Organization Theory: Modern, symbolic, and postmodern perspectives (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Heck, R. H., Thomas, S. L., & Tabata, L. N. (2013). Multilevel and longitudinal modeling with IBM SPSS. New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  34. Johnson, B., Edquist, C., & Lundvall, B. A. (2003). Economic development and the national system of innovation approach. In Presented at the first globelics conference: Innovation systems and development strategies for the third millennium, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.Google Scholar
  35. Kerlin, J. (2006). Social enterprise in the United States and Europe: Understanding and learning from the differences. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 17(3), 246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kerlin, J. (Ed.). (2009). Social enterprise: A global comparison. Lebanon, NH: Tufts University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Kerlin, J. (2010). A comparative analysis of the global emergence of social enterprise. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 21(2), 162–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kerlin, J. (2013). Defining social enterprise across different contexts: A conceptual framework based on institutional factors. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 42(1), 84–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kerlin, J. A. (Ed.). (2017). Shaping social enterprise: Understanding institutional context and influence. London: Emerald Publishing Group.Google Scholar
  40. Kerlin, J. A., Monroe-White, T., & Zook, S. (2016). Chapter 4: Habitats in the zoo. In D. R. Young, E. A. M. Searing, C. V. Brewer (Eds.), The social enterprise zoo: A guide for perplexed scholars, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, leaders, investors, and policymakers (pp. 67–92). Edward Elgar Publishing.Google Scholar
  41. Kickul, J., & Lyons, T. (2012). Recognizing social opportunities. In Understanding social entrepreneurship: The relentless pursuit of mission in an ever changing world (pp. 41–71). New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  42. Leadbeater, C. (2007). Social enterprise and social innovation: Strategies for the next 10 years. A Social Enterprise Think Piece for the Cabinet Office of the Third Sector, Internal Report, London, England.Google Scholar
  43. Light, P. C. (2006). Reshaping social entrepreneurship. Stanford Social Innovation Review, 4(3), 47–51.Google Scholar
  44. Light, P. C. (2008). Declaring assumptions: The search for social entrepreneurship. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution.Google Scholar
  45. Little, R. J. A., & Rubin, D. B. (2002). Statistical analysis with missing data (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Interscience.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Lundvall, B. A. (Ed.). (1992). National systems of innovation: Towards a theory of innovation and interactive learning. London: Pinter Publishers.Google Scholar
  47. Monroe-White, T., & Coskun, M. E. (2017). An updated quantitative assessment of Kerlin’s macro-institutional social enterprise framework. In J. A. Kerlin (Ed.), Shaping social enterprise: Understanding institutional context and influence (pp. 27–48). London: Emerald Publishing Limited.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Monroe-White, T., Kerlin, J. A., & Zook, S. (2015). A quantitative critique of Kerlin’s macro-institutional social enterprise framework. Social Enterprise Journal, 11(2), 178–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Montgomery, T. (2016). Are social innovation paradigms incommensurable? VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 27(4), 1979–2000.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Nelson, R. R. (1993). National innovation systems: A comparative analysis. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  51. Nicholls, A., & Murdock, A. (2012). The nature of social innovation. In A. Nicholls & A. Murdock (Eds.), Social innovation: Blurring boundaries to reconfigure markets. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Nyssens, M. (Ed.). (2006). Social enterprise: between market, public policies and civil society. London: Routledge Press.Google Scholar
  53. O’Connell, A. A., & McCoach, D. B. (Eds.). (2008). Multilevel modeling of educational data. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing Inc.Google Scholar
  54. Osborne, S. P., & Brown, L. (2011). Innovation, public policy and public services delivery in the UK. The word that would be king? Public Administration, 89(4), 1335–1350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Ozgen, E., & Baron, R. A. (2007). Social sources of information in opportunity recognition: Effects of mentors, industry networks, and professional forums. Journal of Business Venturing, 22(2), 174–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Périlleux, A., Vanroose, A., & D’Espallier, B. (2016). Are financial cooperatives crowded out by commercial banks in the process of financial sector development? Kyklos, 69(1), 108–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Rao-Nicholson, R., Vorley, T., & Khan, Z. (2017). Social innovation in emerging economies: A national systems of innovation based approach. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 121, 228–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Raudenbush, S. W., & Bryk, A. S. (2002). Hierarchical linear models: Applications and data analysis methods (2nd ed.). London: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  59. Rinkinen, S., Oikarinen, T., & Melkas, H. (2016). Social enterprises in regional innovation systems: A review of Finnish regional strategies. European Planning Studies, 24(4), 723–741.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Rivera-Santos, M., Holt, D., Littlewood, D., & Kolk, A. (2015). Social entrepreneurship in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Academy of Management Perspectives, 29(1), 72–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Roy, M. J., McHugh, N., Huckfield, L., Kay, A., & Donaldson, C. (2015). “The most supportive environment in the World”? Tracing the development of an institutional ‘ecosystem’ for social enterprise. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 26(3), 777–800.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Sala-i-Martin, X. (2010). In P. K. Schwab (Ed.), The global competitiveness report 2010–2011. Geneva, Switzerland: World Economic Forum, Committed to Improving the State of the World.Google Scholar
  63. Salamon, L., & Sokolowski, S. W. (2009). Bringing the ‘social’ and the ‘political’to civil society: Social origins of civil society sectors in 40 countries. In Paper presented at the 38th annual conference of the association for research on nonprofit organizations and voluntary action, 19–21 November, 2009, Cleveland, OH.Google Scholar
  64. Salamon, L., & Sokolowski, S. W. (2010). The social origins of civil society: Explaining variations in the size and structure of the global civil society sector. In Paper presented at the 9th international conference of the international society for third sector research, Istanbul, Turkey.Google Scholar
  65. Sen, A. (1999). Development as freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  66. Shane, S. (2007). A general theory of entrepreneurship: The individual-opportunity nexus. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.Google Scholar
  67. Shane, S., & Venkataraman, S. (2000). The promise of entrepreneurship as a field of research. Academy of Management Review, 25(2), 217–226.Google Scholar
  68. Snijders, T., & Bosker, R. (2012). Multilevel analysis: An introduction to basic and advanced multilevel modeling. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  69. Surie, G. (2017). Creating the innovation ecosystem for renewable energy via social entrepreneurship: Insights from India. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 121, 184–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Tanaka, N., Glaude, M., & Gault, F. (2005). Oslo manual: Guidelines for collecting and interpreting innovation data (3rd ed.). Paris: OECD and Eurostat.Google Scholar
  71. Tiessen, J. H. (1997). Individualism, collectivism, and entrepreneurship: A framework for international comparative research. Journal of Business Venturing, 12, 367–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Townsend, D. M., & Hart, T. A. (2008). Perceived institutional ambiguity and the choice of organizational form in social entrepreneurial ventures. Entrepreneurship, Theory and Practice, 32(4), 685–700.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Turker, D., & Vural, C. A. (2017). Embedding social innovation process into the institutional context: Voids or supports. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 121, 98–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Urbano, D., Toledano, N., & Soriano, D. R. (2010). Analyzing social entrepreneurship from an institutional perspective: evidence from Spain. Journal of Social Entrepreneurship, 1(1), 54–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Vanroose, A., & D’Espallier, B. (2013). Do microfinance institutions accomplish their mission? Evidence from the relationship between traditional financial sector development and microfinance institutions’ outreach and performance. Applied Economics, 45(15), 1965–1982.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. World Bank Group. (2012). World development indicators, 2012, Washington, DC: World Bank Group. Retrieved January 6, 2013, from
  77. Wu, J., Zhuo, S., & Wu, Z. (2017). National innovation system, social entrepreneurship, and rural economic growth in China. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 121, 238–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Young, D. R. (2013). If Not for Profit, for What?. (1983 Print Edition). Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  79. Young, D. R., & Lecy, J. D. (2014). Defining the universe of social enterprise: Competing metaphors. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 25(5), 1307–1332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Young, D. R., Searing, E. A., & Brewer, C. V. (Eds.). (2016). The social enterprise zoo: A guide for perplexed scholars, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, leaders, investors, and policymakers. Northhampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© International Society for Third-Sector Research and The Johns Hopkins University 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Campbell School of BusinessBerry CollegeMount BerryUSA
  2. 2.School of Public AffairsUniversity of Colorado DenverDenverUSA

Personalised recommendations