The generation of funds and other resources that enable social entrepreneurship engagement of higher education institutions is the most crucial input. However, raising funds for social entrepreneurship is difficult for two reasons: the scarcity of resources that are available for the social sector and the difficulty to show the return on investment for social innovations. Compared to technological innovations for which revenues in terms of generated income can more easily be identified, for social innovations their social impact or they capacity to contribute to solving social problem or to social change has to be determined. This social impact however is difficult to define as benefits cannot be easily measured and are demonstrated differently by the involved stakeholder group. Difficulties in demonstrating the social impact of community engagement can create vicious circles when it comes to securing funding. Though the social innovation might have revealed its ends, the funding could discontinue as outcomes and impacts are not well defined (Roslan et al 2020, p. 9; Benneworth and Jongbloed 2013).

Developing frameworks that support measuring the social impact of social entrepreneurship activities and disseminating these results could secure long-term funding for higher education institutions (Jongbloed and Benneworth 2013).

Relevance of input

Like for ‘mainstream’ entrepreneurship, also for social entre­preneurship sufficient and continuous funding is indispensable for embedding it with a long-term perspective.

To secure funding higher education institutions need to diversify their income streams and identify new money streams, through fund raising initiatives and liaising with (local) donors. Also, forming networks collaborative (research) projects in which higher education institutions and social sector organisations share infrastructures can increase the return on the investment. In addition, voluntary work of staff and students forms a further important resource which will make social entrepreneurship possible. To stimulate staff and students, higher education institutions need to link to their motivations (see tile on motivations)

Examples of interventions at institutional level

  • Fund raising
  • Collaborative/shared infrastructure
  • Implementing frameworks for measuring social impact
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Other relevant resources
  • Jonkers, Koen; Tijssen, Robert; Karvounaraki, Athina; Goenaga, Xabier (2018): A Regional Innovation Impact Assessment Framework for Universities.
  • Jongbloed, Ben; Benneworth, Paul (2013): Learning from History. Previous Attempts to Measure Universities' Community Impacts. In Paul Benneworth (Ed.): University Engagement with Socially Excluded Communities. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands, pp. 263–283.
Links to selected HEInnovate case studies
  • Not covered in HEInnovate
Further reading
  • Ahuja, Vivek; Akhtar, Asif; Wali, O. P. (2019): Development of a comprehensive model of social entrepreneurial intention formation using a quality tool. In J Glob Entrepr Res 9 (1). DOI: 10.1186/s40497-019-0164-4.
  • Bazan, Carlos; Gaultois, Hannah; Shaikh, Arifusalam; Gillespie, Katie; Frederick, Sean; Amjad, Ali et al. (2020): A systematic literature review of the influence of the university’s environment and support system on the precursors of social entrepreneurial intention of students. In J Innov Entrep 9 (1). DOI: 10.1186/s13731-020-0116-9.
  • Reichert, Sybille (2019): The Role of Universities in Regional Innovation Ecosystems. European University Association. Brussels (EUA Study).
  • Roslan, Muhammad Hamirul Hamizan; Hamid, Suraya; Ijab, Mohamad Taha; Yusop, Farrah Dina; Norman, Azah Anir (2020): Social entrepreneurship in higher education: challenges and opportunities. In Asia Pacific Journal of Education, pp. 1–17. DOI: 10.1080/02188791.2020.1859354.