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Effective Social Finance: Mapping the institutional constraints & enablers (RDF23/EIS/PRICE)

   Faculty of Business and Law

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  Dr Michael Price, Prof Gary Bosworth  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Social enterprises are defined by their dual objectives of pursuing a social mission through commercial activities (Mair & Marti, 2006). The social enterprise sector contributes over £60billion to UK’s GDP and employs over 2 million people or, 5% of the workforce (SEUK, 2022), yet obtaining the funding from conventional sources to scale up these organisations is often difficult (Moss et al., 2018).

The hybrid nature of social enterprises mean they can approach both philanthropic and commercial capital providers, but in the early stages, many social enterprises have weak networks, limited collateral and possess little strategic remit beyond their immediate locale (Price & Wong, 2022) making them unattractive to many philanthropic funders, who are increasingly focused on scalability and impact, driven in part, by donor or trustee expectations. Access to finance varies geographically, recent work by Kimmett et al. (2022) finds that a lack of finance and associated professional support infrastructure can limit the growth and development of social enterprises, particularly in deprived areas. Paradoxically, this leads to more social entrepreneurship in wealthier conurbations.  

Research focusing on ways in which early-stage social enterprise can better access affordable and flexible finance is important for two principal reasons. Firstly, social enterprises are increasingly integrating commercial activities as an explicit strategy (Stirzaker, et al., 2021), which in turn develops the opportunity to grow their resources, to address the social problems more effectively [i.e., to increase the scale of their impact]. Increasingly inequality means the issues that many social enterprises seek to address, are becoming increasingly acute. Second, there are new opportunities to examine financial models which attract a broader spectrum of investors, all of whom will have differing expectations in terms of ROI. Hence, a better understanding of the social ecosystem provides an opportunity to design better blended financing, which may adopt a range of instruments [grant, debt, cooperative finance, social impact bonds or loan guarantees] from a broader spectrum of investors. 

The UK government recognises social enterprise have a role to play in driving growth as part of its ‘Levelling up’ agenda. The paper states that government will “consider how best to encourage social organisations and entrepreneurship” (HM Gov, 2022, p. 216), in left-behind areas but presents no further insight into how this may be achieved and typically, the role of government in social venture investment has had mixed results (Kimmett et al. 2022). Hence, there is an opportunity to examine the propensity for public funding [through a range of entrepreneurial support organisations (ESO’s), for example] to drive inclusive growth.

This project is supervised by Dr Michael Price and Professor Gary Bosworth. It benefits from additional support from Richard Adams OBE. Richard is one the UK’s leading social entrepreneurs. He brings considerable expertise to the project, as a former director of the UK Social Investment Forum. Richard holds honorary doctorates from Newcastle University and the University of Durham. He has previously won the New Statesman Social Entrepreneur of the Year award and he chairs the board of directors of the Fair Trade Advocacy Office, in Brussels.

Academic Enquiries

For informal queries, please contact Dr Price [[Email Address Removed]]. For all other enquiries relating to eligibility or the application process please use the email form below to contact Admissions. 

Funding Information

Home and International students (inc. EU) are welcome to apply. The studentship is available to Home and International (including EU) students and includes a full stipend at UKRI rates (for 2022/23 full-time study this is £17,668 per year) and full tuition fees. Studentships are also available for applicants who wish to study on a part-time basis over 5 years (0.6 FTE, stipend £10,600 per year and full tuition fees) in combination with work or personal responsibilities). 

Please also see further advice below of additional costs that may apply to international applicants.

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
  • Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
  • Applicants cannot apply for this funding if they are already a PhD holder or if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

Please note: to be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have settled status, or
  • have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have indefinite leave to remain or enter.

If a candidate does not meet the criteria above, they would be classed as an International student. Applicants will need to be in the UK and fully enrolled before stipend payments can commence, and be aware of the following additional costs that may be incurred, as these are not covered by the studentship.

  • Immigration Health Surcharge
  • If you need to apply for a Student Visa to enter the UK, please refer to the information on It is important that you read this information very carefully as it is your responsibility to ensure that you hold the correct funds required for your visa application otherwise your visa may be refused.
  • Check what COVID-19 tests you need to take and the quarantine rules for travel to England
  • Costs associated with English Language requirements which may be required for students not having completed a first degree in English, will not be borne by the university. Please see individual adverts for further details of the English Language requirements for the university you are applying to.

How to Apply

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see  

For applications to be considered for interview, please include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words and the advert reference (e.g. RDF23/…).

Deadline for applications: 27 January 2023

Start date of course: 1 October 2023 tbc


Steiner, A., Farmer, J. & Bosworth, G. (2019) “Rural Social Enterprise – Evidence to date and a research agenda” Journal of Rural Studies 70, 139-143
Kimmitt, J., Mandakovic, V. and Muñoz, P. (2022), “Social problem scale, public investment and social entrepreneurship action”, Int. J. Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research (in press)
Mair, J., & Marti, I. (2006). Social entrepreneurship research: A source of explanation, prediction, and delight. J. World Business, 41(1), 36-44.
Moss, T.W., Renko, M., Block, E. & Meyskens, M. (2018) Funding the story of hybrid ventures: crowdfunder lending preferences and linguistic hybridity. J. Business Venturing, 33, 643–659.
Price, M & Wong, N. (2022) Scaling up? Making sense of strategies in social enterprises. In: Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship, York, ISBE Conference Proceedings 2022.
Stirzaker, R., Galloway, L., Muhonen, J. and Christopoulos, D. (2021), “The drivers of social entrepreneurship: agency, context, compassion and opportunism”, International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 27 No. 6, pp. 1381–1402

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