When engaging in social entrepreneurship need to be aware in which areas they can support and collaborate with the social sector. A self-assessment in collaboration with stakeholders can provide insights in strengths and weaknesses and point to potential engagement areas.

However, establishing an ecosystem with the social sector is to some extent comparable to setting up a network for business collaboration. First steps involve a scan of the social sector to explore needs and demands related to regional development. Major differences to university-business ecosystems lie in:

  • Funding – social sector organisations frequently face scarce resources which make it difficult to invest in research and collaboration with higher education institutions (Cheah and Ho 2019). Therefore, higher education institutions have to be aware that they might need to invest in these collaborations, e.g., their own funds or voluntary work of staff and students
  • The TEFCE project highlighted that community engagement requires higher education institutions to base their collaboration on certain principles that help establishing good working relationships (Benneworth et al 2018, p. 145-146). These principles point out that
    • Authentic commitment to community engagement
    • Empowerment of individual academics and other actors
    • Allowing ‘end- ‘users to evaluate the value of the academic engagement
    • Highlighting the collaborative learning

are beneficial to establishing an enduring and well-functioning ecosystem with regional social communities or the social sector.

The goal

Identifying opportunities and nurturing the collaboration with the social sector should contribute to sustainable ecosystems with the social sector. These ecosystems should benefit social sector organisation, the region, the higher education institution and its internal stakeholders, staff, and students. Sustainable ecosystems can contribute to securing and heightening the status of the higher education institution as a relevant socially, embedded actor.

Examples of interventions at institutional level

  • Establish open innovation models and engage in co-creation: In essence open innovation models refer to opening innovation processes to external communities and include them in the development of social innovations. Living labs (see tile on living labs) can provide space for exchanging and collaborating with relevant stakeholder groups.
  • Connective leadership: The term connective leadership refers to leaders who are well embedded in regional networks and have agile/vivid relationships with the social sector. Case studies have shown rectors or presidents of higher education institutions who actively engage with the social sector can bring about major contributions to regional (social) innovations and strengthen the institution’s relationship with the sector (Reichert 2019, p. 67ff)

Self-assessment of strength and weaknesses of performance of higher education institution in collaboration with regional stakeholders (see also tile “opportunity identification”)

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Other relevant resources
  • Reichert, Sybille (2019): The Role of Universities in Regional Innovation Ecosystems. European University Association. Brussels (EUA Study).
Links to selected HEInnovate case studies
  • not covered by HEInnovate
Further reading
  • García-González, Abel; Ramírez-Montoya, María Soledad (2019): Higher education for social entrepreneurship in the quadruple helix framework. In Miguel Ángel Conde González (Ed.): Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Technological Ecosystems for Enhancing Multiculturality. With assistance of Francisco Jesús Rodríguez Sedano, Camino Fernández Llamas, Francisco José García-Peñalvo. TEEM'19: Technological Ecosystems for Enhancing Multiculturality. León Spain, 16 10 2019 18 10 2019. New York, NY, United States: Association for Computing Machinery (ACM Digital Library), pp. 925–929.
  • Yun, JinHyo Joseph; Zhao, Xiaofei; Jung, KwangHo; Yigitcanlar, Tan (2020): The Culture for Open Innovation Dynamics. In Sustainability 12 (12), p. 5076. DOI: 10.3390/su12125076.