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Research strategy

Our research is focused on building and sharing knowledge about the most deep-rooted global social problems, in particular poverty, widening health inequalities, and environmental sustainability. We believe that ‘solutions’ to these problems reside across sectors and organisational forms, and in a different kind of leadership that blurs the boundaries between what is for-profit and what is not-for-profit.

At the core of our approach is “deep engagement” – the philosophy that underpins research across CJBS.

Within the Cambridge Centre for Social Innovation, this involves working closely with organisations engaged in social change in order to help them interpret their experiences and to put them in a wider context so that ideas and practices can be shared with, and elaborated upon by, others addressing related issues and problems.

As well as helping social innovators to reflect upon and share effective ideas and practices, deep engagement helps academic researchers to develop research questions that are relevant to social innovators, to design research projects that better capture the organisational and leadership dynamics of social innovation, and ultimately to generate more nuanced and impactful theories of social change.

Social innovation research

Enabling Social Innovation through Digital Innovation

Professor Michael Barrett is involved with two projects that examine how digital innovation around mobile technologies and online communities can enhance social innovation in both developed and developing countries.

Collaborators: Eivor Oborn (WBS), Wanda Orlikowski (MIT), Anna Kim (Ivey)

This study examines how service innovation enabled by mobile platforms have been developed and deployed for financial inclusion. MPESA was established as a joint venture between Vodafone and Safaricom, Kenya’s dominant mobile network operator with its low technology SMS messaging platform developed by a UK based company in Silicon Fenn, Sagentia to enable money transfers between thousands of network agents across Kenya (REFS). We examine how the dramatic success of this innovation trajectory as it improves the lives of millions of Kenyans who were previously locked out from the financial system while at the same time a far more disappointing result ensued in other sub-Saharan countries.

Collaborators: Ignacio Perez-Hallerbach, (CJBS), Samer Faraj (McGill University)

Online communities like Wikipedia have the potential to transform our global society. Despite their growing importance, however, we know little about how users connect for a social good and through knowledge collaboration make effective contributions in a nascent online community. We investigate this phenomenon by applying a mixed-method approach to a longitudinal case study of AshokaHub, a nascent global online community of social entrepreneurs.


Stott, N., Fava, M., Tracey, P. and Claus, L. (2018) “Playing well with others? Community cross-sector work in poor places.” In: Re-thinking Cross-Sector Social Innovation Conference, 6-7 April 2018, Social Innovation and Change Initiative, Harvard Kennedy School, Cambridge, MA, USA.


Holger, E., Kahle, H.N., Dubiel, A., Prabhu, J. and Subramaniam, M. (2015) “The antecedents and consequences of affordable value innovations for emerging markets.” Journal of Product Innovation (forthcoming)


Doherty, B., Haugh, H. and Lyon, F. (2014) “Social enterprises as hybrid organizations: a review and research agenda.” International Journal of Management Reviews (DOI: 10.1111/ijmr.12028) (published online Jan 2014; forthcoming in print)

Barrett, M. and Orlikowski, W. (2014) “Digital innovation in emerging markets: a case study of mobile money.” Center for Information Systems Research Research Briefing. Cambridge, MA: MIT Sloan School of Management.

Reinecke, J. and Ansari, S. (2014) “What is a ‘fair’ price? Ethics as sensemaking.” Organization Science (forthcoming) (a previous version of this paper won the Best Environmental and Social Practices Paper Award, OMT Division, Academy of Management, 2013)

Reinecke, J. and Ansari, S. (2014) “When times collide: temporal brokerage at the intersection of markets and development.” Academy of Management Journal (DOI: 10.5465/amj.2012.1004) (forthcoming) (a previous version of this paper won the Best International Paper Paper Award, OMT Division, Academy of Management, 2014)


Ansari, S.M., Wijen, F. and Gray, B. (2013) “Constructing a climate change logic: an institutional perspective on the ‘tragedy of the commons’.” Organization Science, 24(4): 1014-1040 (DOI: 10.1287/orsc.1120.0799)

Kahle, H.N., Dubiel, A., Ernst, H. and Prabhu, J. (2013) “The democratizing effects of frugal innovation: implications for inclusive growth and state-building.” Journal of Indian Business Research, 5(4): 220-234 (DOI: 10.1108/JIBR-01-2013-0008)


Ansari, S., Munir, K. and Gregg, T. (2012) “Impact at the ‘bottom of the pyramid’: the role of social capital in capability development and community empowerment.” Journal of Management Studies, 49(4): 813-842 (DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-6486.2012.01042.x)

George, G., McGahan, A.M. and Prabhu, J. (2012) “Innovation for inclusive growth: towards a theoretical framework and a research agenda.” Journal of Management Studies, 49(4): 661-683 (DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-6486.2012.01048.x)

Lawrence, T., Phillips, N. and Tracey, P. (2012) “Educating social entrepreneurs and social innovators.” Academy of Management Learning and Education, 11(3): 319-323 (DOI: 10.5465/amle.2012.0224)

Radjou, N. and Prabhu, J. (2012) “Mobilizing for growth in emerging markets: to reach the “next billion” consumers, multinational companies will need to move beyond value chain localization and create new networks of local partners.” MIT Sloan Management Review, 53(3): 81-88


Ansari, S., Wijen, F. and Gray, B. (2011) “Fiddling while the ice melts? How organizational scholars can take a more active role in the climate change debate.” Strategic Organization, 9(1): 70-76 (DOI: 10.1177/1476127010395525)

Tracey, P., Phillips, N. and Jarvis, O. (2011) “Bridging institutional entrepreneurship and the creation of new organizational forms: a multilevel model.” Organization Science, 22(1): 60-80 (DOI: 10.1287/orsc.1090.0522)

Dacin, M.T., Dacin, P.A. and Tracey, P. (2011) “Social entrepreneurship: a critique and future directions.” Organization Science, 22(5): 1203-1213 (DOI: 10.1287/orsc.1100.0620)


Di Domenico, M., Haugh, H. and Tracey, P. (2010) “Social bricolage: theorizing social value creation in social enterprises.” Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 34(4): 681-703

Haugh, H.M. and Talwar, A. (2010) “How do corporations embed sustainability across the organization?” Academy of Management Learning and Education, 9(3): 384-396

Moizer, J. and Tracey, P. (2010) “Strategy making in social enterprise: the role of resource allocation and its effects on organizational sustainability.” Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 27(3): 252-266 (DOI: 10.1002/sres.1006)

Munir, K., Ansari, S. and Gregg, T. (2010) “Beyond the hype: taking business strategy to the ‘bottom of the pyramid’.” In Baum, J.A.C. and Lampel, J. (eds.): The globalization of strategy research. (Advances in Strategic Management Series, vol.27) Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing, pp.247-276


Kneiding, C. and Tracey, P. (2009) “Towards a performance measurement framework for community development finance institutions in the UK.” Journal of Business Ethics, 86(3): 327-345

Di Domenico, M., Tracey, P. and Haugh, H. (2009) “The dialectic of social exchange: theorising corporate-social enterprise collaboration.” Organization Studies, 30(8): 887-907 (DOI: 10.1177/0170840609334954)

Di Domenico, M., Tracey, P. and Haugh, H. (2009) “Social economy involvement in public service delivery: community engagement and accountability.” Regional Studies, 43(7): 981-992


Khan, F., Munir, K. and Willmott, H. (2007) “A dark side of institutional entrepreneurship: soccer balls, child labour and postcolonial impoverishment.” Organization Studies, 28(7): 1055-1077 (DOI: 10.1177/0170840607078114)

Haugh, H. (2007) “Community-led social venture creation.” Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice, 31(2): 161-182 (DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6520.2007.00168.x)

Haugh, H. (2007) “New strategies for a sustainable society: the growing contribution of social entrepreneurship.” Business Ethics Quarterly, 17(4): 743-750

Haugh, H. (2005) “The role of social enterprise in regional development.” International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business, 2(4): 346-357

Haugh, H. and Kitson, M. (2007) “The Third Way and the third sector: New Labour’s economic policy and the social economy.” Cambridge Journal of Economics, 31(6): 973-994

Nwankwo, E., Phillips, N. and Tracey, P. (2007) “Social investment through community enterprise: the case of MNC involvement in the development of Nigerian water resources.” Journal of Business Ethics, 73(1): 91-101 (DOI: 10.1007/s10551-006-9200-8)

Stott, N, and Tracey, P. (2007) “Between a rock and a hard place? Exploring the strategic tensions experienced by development trusts.” Journal of Finance and Management in Public Services, 6(3): 45-56

Tracey, P. and Jarvis, O. (2007) “Toward a theory of social venture franchising.” Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice, 31(5): 667-685 (DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6520.2007.00194.x)

Tracey, P. and Phillips, N. (2007) “The distinctive challenge of educating social entrepreneurs: a postscript and rejoinder to the special issue on entrepreneurship education.” Academy of Management Learning and Education, 6(2): 264-271

Wijen, F. and Ansari, S.M. (2007) “Overcoming inaction through collective institutional entrepreneurship: insights from regime theory.” Organization Studies, 28(7): 1079-1100


Tracey, P. and Jarvis, O. (2006) “An enterprising failure.” Stanford Social Innovation Review, 4(1): 66-70


Tracey, P., Phillips, N. and Haugh, H. (2005) “Beyond philanthropy: community enterprise as a basis for corporate citizenship.” Journal of Business Ethics 58(4): 327-344

Radjou, N., Prabhu, J. and Ahuja, S. (2012) Jugaad innovation: think frugal, be flexible, generate breakthrough growth. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Research summaries from our MSt in Social Innovation cohort.

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