Social entrepreneurs need a specific skill set which enables them to contribute to solve social problems and achieving social change. While there is no standardized set of skills, research has shown that disciplinary skills are frequently too limited to solve social problems (Durking and Gunn 2017). For example, the development and implementation of technical innovations to solve environmental problems also must consider how these changes will affect social communities. Also, social innovations that aim to include socially disadvantaged groups should consider the multiple effects such interventions have and accompanying measures to effectively implement the intervention.

Identifying skill needs in labour markets and adapting educational activities to best prepare students for future careers is already challenging for higher education institutions in business or industry sectors. Relating to the social sector is even more challenging to them due to transdisciplinary character of social problems but also because of the social sectors organisations’ difficulties to specify their skill needs. Some higher education institutions also lack insights into their (regional) social sectors as they did not yet develop an extensive ecosystem including social organisations.

The goal

For higher education institutions that want to address skill needs in the social sectors or social entrepreneurship, it is crucial to develop organisational structure or roles that collect information about these needs. Hazelkorn (2016, p. 84ff) and Benneworth et al (2013, p. 91, 95ff) make several suggestions for these structures and roles.

It is important that these bodies can identify generic skill needs that can be applied in solving a wide range of social problems.

Examples of interventions at institutional level

  • Revisit skills frameworks: Entrecomp, etc.
  • Establishment of specialised unit such transfer offices or corporate liaisons offices
  • Corporate partnerships with social sector organisations
  • Engaging companies that scan regional skill requirements, such as
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Other relevant resources
  • The European Entrepreneurship Competence Framework: Entrecomp
  • OECD (2021): Building Local Ecosystems for Social Innovation. A Methodological Framework. OECD. Paris (OECD Local Employment and Economic Development (LEED) Papers).
Links to selected HEInnovate case studies
  • Not covered by HEInnovate
Further reading
  • Benneworth, Paul; Charles, David; Hodgson, Catherine; Humphrey, Lynne (2013): The Relationship of Community Engagement with Universities’ Core Missions. In Paul Benneworth (Ed.): University Engagement with Socially Excluded Communities. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands, pp. 85–101.
  • Durkin, Chris; Gunn, Robert (2017): Social entrepreneurship. Skills approach. Second edition. Bristol, UK: Policy Press.
  • Hazelkorn, Ellen (2016): Contemporary debates part 2: initiatives, governance and organisational structures. In J. B. Goddard, Ellen Hazelkorn, Louise Kempton, Paul Vallance (Eds.): The civic university. The policy and leadership challenges. Cheltenham UK: Edward Elgar Publishing, pp. 65–93.
  • Montes-Martínez, Ruth; Ramírez-Montoya, María Soledad (2020): Training in Entrepreneurship Competences, Challenges for Educational Institutions: Systematic Literature Review. In Francisco José García-Peñalvo (Ed.): Eighth International Conference on Technological Ecosystems for Enhancing Multiculturality. With assistance of Alicia García-Holgado. TEEM'20: Eighth International Conference on Technological Ecosystems for Enhancing Multiculturality. Salamanca Spain, 21 10 2020 23 10 2020. New York, NY, United States: Association for Computing Machinery (ACM Digital Library), pp. 358–364.
  • Smith, Wendy K.; Besharov, Marya L.; Wessels, Anke K.; Chertok, Michael (2012): A Paradoxical Leadership Model for Social Entrepreneurs: Challenges, Leadership Skills, and Pedagogical Tools for Managing Social and Commercial Demands. In AMLE 11 (3), pp. 463–478. DOI: 10.5465/amle.2011.0021.