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Doctoral thesis, 2019

Transforming society through multilevel dynamics : a case of social entrepreneurship in the sanitation sector

Kokko, Suvi


Social entrepreneurship and social innovation are expected to take on a growing role in solving global problems of sustainability. However, many social entrepreneurial ventures and social innovations fail to create real change. The aim is to advance knowledge on the social innovation process by examining the dynamics of the multiple actors and levels of context in which a social entrepreneur develops and implements a social innovation. The case of a social entrepreneur in the sanitation sector provides a rich empirical setting for this research. A longitudinal case study was conducted in Kenya and multiple methods were used to collect empirical material. Drawing on theories from consumer and marketing research and socio-technical transition studies as well as institutional and social network theories, the four distinct research papers constituting this thesis offer multiple perspectives on the social innovation process. Papers I and II show how the beliefs, preferences and values of endusers of a social innovation can be identified. Paper III shows that the different actors, taking part in the social innovation process in the social enterprise, are embedded in different, yet complementary, value logics, which guide the actors’ expectations and experiences of social value from the venture. In Paper IV, the focus lies in understanding the practices of different actors, which may enable or resist change in dominant practices, when introducing a social innovation. This thesis contributes an alternative approach to understanding how social entrepreneurship can lead to transformative societal change. The fields of research and practice in social entrepreneurship may benefit from methods and theories that can account for the multiple actors and levels present in the social innovation process, in order to capture the factors necessary for creating change in deeper structures of society. Narrow, functionalist and economics approaches, may fail in delivering useful information on such complex processes.


social entrepreneurship; social innovation; transformative change; multilevel perspective

Published in

ISBN: 978-91-7760-380-1, eISBN: 978-91-7760-381-8
Publisher: Department of Economics, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Business Administration

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