Research on Strategy Configurations in Social Enterprises

Strategy Configurations in Social Enterprises:  Exploring A Stakeholder Approach in Defining a Typology of Social Enterprise Strategies

Background and Relevance:

This research studies the relationship between strategy and the role of stakeholders in various stages of the social enterprise life cycle.  In the process, it hopes to define a stakeholder-based typology of  social enterprise strategies and the conditions under which they are effective in addressing the problem of poverty.  Social enterprises are social purpose business ventures which are hybrid enterprises straddling the boundary between the for-profit business world and social mission-driven public and private nonprofit organizations (Hockerts, 2006).  They undertake market-based solutions to social problems, and as such align economic with social value creation (Dees and Anderson, 2006).  Many studies have proven the important contribution of social enterprises in poverty reduction (Seelos et al, 2006).  By exploring social enterprise strategies that effectively address poverty, this research hopes to contribute to the global discourse on how they could play a more effective role in solving this social malaise in Asia and elsewhere in the world.

At the same time, social enterprises are a paradox in the market. Like corporations, they need to be profitable or financially sustainable. Unlike corporations, they are social mission driven, and their profits are distributed to the poor,  who may not be shareholders or investors in the social enterprise. This paradox provides the basis for enriching the discourse on stakeholder approach/theory (Freeman, 1984; 2004), which based on a review of literature,  has essentially been framed and based on corporate experience.

Research Problem:

What types of strategies exist among social enterprises that serve the poor as primary stakeholders?  What roles do stakeholders play and what impact do they have in the strategy formation process across these different types? Under what conditions would these different  types of strategies be effective in serving the poor at various stages of the social enterprise life cycle? Are there strategy configurations linked to the success or failure of social enterprises?


The research shall use case-based theory building (Eisenhardt, 1989) as overall methodology. It shall develop theory from case study research involving a theoretical sample of high performing and average performing social enterprises in the Philippines.  This country mirrors the poverty in Asia, a region that is home to two thirds of the world’s poorest.

Researcher, Time Frame and Base Institutions:

The research is being conducted by Marie Lisa Dacanay,  as her dissertation research project (July 2007-June 2011) as a PhD Fellow at the Copenhagen Business School (CBS), with partial support from the Social Entrepreneurship in Asia and Europe Project.   The Institute for Social Entrepreneurship in Asia (ISEA) where she is President,  serves as her PhD research base institution in the Philippines. Her supervisor is Prof. Kai Hockerts of the  Department of Intercultural Communication and Management (IKL) at CBS.  


Dacanay, Marie Lisa M. “Social Entrepreneurship:  An Asian Perspective”, International Perspectives on Social Entrepreneurship, by Robinson et al (Eds), Hampshire and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

Dees, J. G. & Anderson, B. Framing a Theory of Social Entrepreneurship: Building on Two Schools of Practice and Thought, Research on Social Entrepreneurship: Understanding and Contributing to an Emerging Field: Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA), 2006.

Eisenhardt, Kathleen M. Building Theories from Case Study Research in Academy of Management Review, 1989. Vol 14, No 4,  532-550.

Freeman, Edward.  Strategic management:  a stakeholder approach, Boston: Pitman, 1984.

Freeman, Edward. The Stakeholder Approach Revisited, ZFWU 5/3 (2004), 228-241.

Hockerts, Kai, Entrepreneurial Opportunity in Social Purpose Business Ventures in Social Entrepreneurship by Mair et al (Eds), Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.

Seelos, Christian, Ganly, Kate and Mair, Johanna. Social Entrepreneurs Directly Contribute to Global Development Goals in Social Entrepreneurship by Mair, Johanna, Robinson, Jeffrey and Hockerts, Kai (Ed) Hampshire and New York:  Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.