Innovation and social enterprise activity in third sector organisations

Working paper 83 - December 2012

There is a growing interest in the role of social enterprises and third sector organisations in delivering a range of services, and many claims are made about their innovative potential. There is a need, therefore, to examine their approaches to innovation. This paper looks at three case studies - of charities who's income comes primarily from social social enterprise activity. The paper explores what innovation can mean in the current policy environment and identifies diverse sources of innovation. Innovation may relate to new products or services, the process of delivering these, or the positioning of services for new users or funders.

The paper raises questions about the extent to which innovation is encouraged or hindered by current political and institutional context. It highlights the challenges to innovation that third sector organisations could face - such as lack of investment to start new projects, the willingness to take risks by senior management teams and trustees, or over reliance on the government for funding.

Research contacts:
Celine Chew and Fergus Lyon