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Process of Innovation

Processes of innovation within the social economy: the case of community-led enterprises in the UK

PhD researcher's name: Maria Isabel Irurita

University/Supervisors: Middlesex (Fergus Lyon; Ian Vickers)

Partner organisation: Locality

Impact highlights: Appointment as Director of a CSR Observatory and a Masters on Social Innovation in Colombia (from 2013); Appointment as Director of a MA in Social Entrepreneurship at Goldsmiths College – University of London (2011-2012); Training provided to over 50 social entrepreneurs in the UK, Vietnam and Latin America.

This PhD Case Studentship focuses on the processes by which community-led organisations and initiatives innovate and how these maximise opportunities to meet social and environmental needs. Of special interest for this research was the role of networks, collaborative arrangements and support infrastructures in fostering innovation between social enterprises as well as the barriers that prevent them from achieving their potential and wider impact.

Maria has benefitted greatly from the CASE Studentship:

  • Maria presented he work at a number of seminars and academic conferences including: International Social Innovation Research Conference (2010, 2011 and 2012); EMES International Conference on Social Economy (2011, 2012); NYU International Conference on Social Entrepreneurship (2010).
  • Produced social media strategy for EMES European Research Network (April 2011) -Created and coordinated the EMES Junior Experts Blog (July 2011)
  • Blog post published in EMES Junior Experts Blog (September 2011)
  • During the first year of her PhD, she was approached by Goldsmith College – University of London to set up and manage a new MA in Social Entrepreneurship. She took this opportunity for one year while suspending her studies. This MA course proved to be a big success, recruiting an important number of students both nationally and internationally.
  • She also taught on a number of modules on social enterprise for this MA course and supervised master dissertations.
  • She delivered training to 37 social enterprises on business and financial planning through Social Enterprise London´s training programme ´Business and financial planning for social enterprises´ (2011); and to 18 social entrepreneurs in Vietnam, on innovation and creativity for social change through the British Council´s International Programme ´Skills for Social Entrepreneurs´.
  • Maria also founded and supported two social ventures in London: Latin America Youth Enterprise and Stepping Stones Community Nursery. 
  • More recently (2013), she was appointed by ICESI University of Cali, in Colombia, to set up a brand new CSR Observatory and a MA in Social Sector Management and Social Innovation. As part of these initiatives, she has also secured university funding to conduct research on social entrepreneurship in the city of Cali.

The supervisory team also benefitted from this CASE Studentship:

  • Through gaining contacts to social enterprises and Locality.
  • Gaining an understanding of the context of innovation in these social enterprises. This has complemented other programmes looking at innovation and social innovation currently being funded by ESRC.

The CASE studentship has also benefitted the partner organisation:

  • Advising Locality on their annual survey
  • Supporting Locality in the design of the evaluation framework for their programme of encouraging peer support networks.

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