Supporting Innovation in Materially Deprived Urban Environments

Social Enterprise Networks was recently awarded Social Innovation seed funding from RADIUS and Embark. This post is cross-posted from their website.
Research at the Department of Urban Studies, Simon Fraser University shows a link between the centrality of individuals running a social enterprise and the material deprivation of the area that their social enterprise is in. Our findings seem to support the hypothesis that highly materially deprived urban areas host greater levels of communication strategy innovation among social enterprises by forcing social enterprise heads online to get information and resources from their social networks.
Social Enterprise Networks will support this radical innovation at a grass-roots level. It will provide tangible help in the form of software that is often costly, particularly for social enterprises starting out. Our services go a long way. They support social enterprises for a minimum of one year. The Financial Times writes that austerity promotes innovation. On one level all social enterprises are a response to cuts in public services. However, on another level, social enterprises in materially deprived areas exist under pre-existing conditions of austerity within their immediate community. And our research shows that this in and of itself promotes innovation. As the Financial Times article quotes, “the hard times are when the really good people start to shine,” or to put it more succinctly, are when the innovators come to out play, by necessity. This doesn’t justify the cuts. But it shows that initiatives like Social Enterprise Networks are essential in supporting welfare services get back on their feet through the medium of innovative social enterprises in materially deprived areas.
Our project will also support social enterprises that are not in areas of high material deprivation. This will allow us to compare and contrast social enterprises operating under different conditions, and to come to balanced conclusions. While the research already undertaken supports the idea that high material deprivation generates more online innovation, it would be interesting to see if this is the case on the ground, and to do that the project must support a variety of social enterprises. In the end, wherever the social enterprise operates, the goal is to benefit the community. Social Enterprise Networks is not only a tool for social enterprises. It is a tool for communities, and a resource that can help prepare them for the coming challenges of a post-capitalist world.