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Social venturing phenomenon: drivers, impact and directions (REF: SF18/BAM/BHOWMICK)

  • Full or part time
    Dr S Bhowmick
    Dr R Wanjiru
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

The non-governmental social sector works from reviving orphan drugs for the poorest patients of the deadly black fever disease in India or Sudan to inner city poverty reduction in New York or London, defies traditional business sector explanation. There is conflicting theorising in the field of social venturing with the argument of empathetic investing being juxtaposed with impact investing logic. Calling it social entrepreneurship has given it a research direction that views the social venturing phenomenon through the lens of entrepreneurship theories such as the entrepreneurial opportunity perspective, the innovation perspective or the perspective of the venture sponsor’s achievement. However, there are many ambiguities including debates about the very definition of the social venturing phenomenon, the role of opportunity vis-à-vis need, the criticality of innovation in social venturing, etc., that need further exploration.

This doctoral project would aim to explore the drivers for social venturing action, such as, why people start and run private social ventures. Within that broad remit, areas of research include the role of reward expectation as individual payback for the sponsor, the hierarchy of factors that underpin social venturing action, as also the peculiarities of the environment within which social ventures operate and the impact assessment possibilities in this complex phenomenon. Any focused topic will link in to market behavior and government action and what causes private social venturing to arise in local contexts. However, combining a focus on social ventures with entrepreneurship and economic approaches can be a challenging task, yet this is imperative. On the other hand, data might show that a new approach away from the existing-theory-dependent-observation is needed to understand the logic of social venturing.

This PhD research project seeks to explore questions such as those below:

• Investigating the role of institutions and governance structures influencing social venture formation and growth beyond institutional failure as the cause of such ventures, ie, the need, role and desirability of institutional change in providing an environment for social ventures to perform
• Investigating the types of knowledge and learning occurring within social ventures. Role of new knowledge in social ventures, for instance, to scale up and out or scale down and deep, within context driven action, or in terms of assessing venture sustainability and mission drift.
• Investigating the resources for investment within social ventures and evaluating the societal impact generated. What kind of resources are required and what results are sought in terms of socio-economic change and contexts in which social venturing can deliver them.

The project will focus on social ventures in the UK. However, depending on the candidate’s interest and data access potential, a contextual country comparison study with the UK would be encouraged if possible. Candidates are expected to outline a suitable potential methodological approach and justify its fit to the study as well as any potential limitations. Given the paucity of empirics in the field, an empirical data based research is likely to be of interest to academic researchers, practitioners and policymakers, and will be preferred.
The academic team supervising this project are Dr Sanjay Bhowmick (first) and Dr Roseline Wanjiru (second).

Eligibility and How to Apply:
Please note eligibility requirement:
• 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.

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

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. SF18/…) will not be considered.

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality and is a member of the Euraxess network, which delivers information and support to professional researchers.

Funding Notes

Please note this is a self-funded project and does not include fees


Recent publications by supervisors relevant to this project

- “Social Venturing as a Distinct Domain” Journal of Social Entrepreneurship, vol 2,1, pp 99-111
- “The leading edge of Inclusive Entrepreneurship: The case of Whale Watch Kaikoura” in J. Hayton, C. Salvato, & M. J. Manimala (Eds.), Global Entrepreneurship: Case Studies of Entrepreneurial Firms Operating Around the World, New York: Taylor & Francis. Academy of Management Global Casebook (with Spiller, C.)
- “Social Venturing: An Emotional Undertaking?” Australian Centre for Entrepreneurship Research Exchange, Perth, Australia, Feb 2015
- “Beyond Entrepreneurship in Social Venturing: Institutions for Societal Wellbeing” Presented at INBAM conference, Barcelona, 24-27 June 2014
Wanjiru R and Prime, K. (2018). Institutions, economic growth and international competitiveness: a regional study. In Castellani, Narula, Nguyen, Surdu & Walker (Eds). 2018. Contemporary Issues in International Business, AIB UKI Annual series, Palgrave Macmillan
Ado, A. Su, Z and Wanjiru, R. (2017). Learning and Knowledge transfer in Africa-China JVs: Interplay between Informalities, Culture, and Social Capital. Journal of International Management, 23(2), 166-179
Arakpogun, E., Wanjiru, R. and Whalley, J. (2017). Impediments to the implementation of universal service funds in Africa: a cross-country comparative analysis, Telecommunications Policy, 41 (2017), 617-630
Phelps, N.A., Stillwell, J.C.H and Wanjiru, R. (2009). ‘Broken Chain? AGOA and Foreign Direct Investment in the Kenyan Clothing Industry’, World Development, Vol. 37 (2), pp. 314-325
Phelps, N.A., Stillwell, J.C.H and Wanjiru, R. (2008). ‘Missing the GO in AGOA? Growth and constraints of foreign direct investment in the Kenyan clothing industry’ Transnational Corporations, Vol. 17 (2), pp. 68-105

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