Social Innovation: The Construct and Antecedents

Achi, Awele (2022). Social Innovation: The Construct and Antecedents. PhD thesis The Open University.



As the degree of social problems and opportunities within our complex society continues to increase, social innovation has become an increasingly important strategic element within the context of social enterprises and social entrepreneurship. However, a review of literature indicates that there is a lack of consensus on the nature of the social innovation construct as well as a dearth of studies on its antecedents and outcomes. Accordingly, my aim in this PhD thesis was to investigate the social innovation construct, its antecedents, and organisational related outcomes in social enterprises. For that purpose, I adopted an exploratory sequential mixed methods research design involving the collection and analysis of both qualitative and quantitative data to inductively generate and test theory on the research topic. In the qualitative phase, I conducted 26 in-depth interviews with representatives of UK-based social enterprises to identify the dimensions, key antecedents, and outcomes of social innovation via Gioia methodology analysis. Following this, I used insights from the qualitative findings and existing literature to develop a conceptual framework that conceptualises the relationship between social innovation, its antecedents and organisational related outcomes that is informed by resource-based and knowledge-based theories. Next, in the quantitative phase, I collected survey data at two separate time intervals from UK-based social enterprises (time 1 N=189, and time 2 N=155) to develop a measure of social innovation and test the research hypotheses of the study using multivariate regression technique. Consequently, my findings reveal that the social innovation construct has a multidimensional nature which comprises of three dimensions: social-focused creativity, transformative value, and inclusiveness orientation. My results also offer a new, reliable, and valid measure of social innovation. I also discover that the six key antecedents of directors’ exposure, directors’ personal values, entrepreneurial mindset, mission-focused employees, funders’ perception, and social support are positively related to social innovation. Further, I find empirical support that social innovation is positively related to the organisational related outcomes of social enterprise objectives, continuous business survival, social enterprise reputation and community impact. Overall, I contribute theoretically, methodologically, and empirically to our further holistic understanding of the social innovation phenomenon in social enterprises. Specifically, I make an original contribution to existing knowledge by providing an improved, more relevant conceptualisation, operationalised definition and measurement of social innovation as well as identify its key antecedents and organisational-related outcomes. Moreover, my findings have practical implications for social enterprise practitioners and policymakers towards developing and implementing social innovation. Finally, I identify the limitations of my research and provide directions for future research advancement.

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