When comparing to cooperation with the industry and business sector, collaborations with social sector organisations are mostly less well funded. Also acquiring funds from public bodies or research funders is difficult due to a high competition and low funding rates. In some countries there is also no culture of donorship in higher education. Lack of funding or insufficient funding of collaboration can form a major hurdle to establishing collaboration with the social sector.

The problem

Three major problems are associated with the lack of funding:

  • Limited funding for the social sector
  • Difficulties in demonstrating the impact and value of social entrepreneurship
  • Misconceptions of social sector organisations about the cost of academic research

Solutions at institutional level

Several solutions to remedy the lack of funding are available. Not all of these solutions aim at increasing income but try to generate other resources or advertise the outcomes social entrepreneurship.

  • Diversifying income resources for the social sector
    Higher education institutions can engage in uncovering further income resources. Connective leadership, i.e., the engagement of institutional leaders with (private) donors and foundations is an option.
  • Investing non-financial resources
    Besides money, volunteering of staff and students represents a resource that is relevant in establishing collaboration with the social sector. However, incentives to motivate staff and students to provide their voluntary engagement to the higher education institution have to be in place.
  • Adapting/establishing an indicator system to monitor/report social impact
    Information on the social impact of the institution’s community engagement can be helpful to demonstrate its value and engage further donors, charities and public bodies to provide resources for this work.
  • Dissemination of social engagement achievements
    A targeted dissemination of achievements and ongoing social sector collaboration creates greater public interest. Higher education institutions are more likely to become recognized as relevant actors who contribute to regional development.
  • Awareness building among social sector organisations
    Some social sector organisations are reluctant to collaborate with higher education institutions as they believe that they cannot afford their services. Awareness building campaigns should point out the actual costs and benefits of collaboration. Further, higher education institution should consider adapting their tariffs to the possibilities of the social sector.
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Other relevant resources
  • Benneworth, Paul; Culum, B.; Farnell, T.; Kaiser, F.; Seeber, M.; Scukanec, N. et al. (2018): Mapping and Critical Synthesis of Current State-of-the Art on Community Engagement in Higher Education. Zagreb.
  • Reichert, Sybille (2019): The Role of Universities in Regional Innovation Ecosystems. European University Association. Brussels (EUA Study).
Links to selected HEInnovate case studies
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Further reading
  • 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.