Research project

Social Enterprise as Force for more Inclusive and Innovative Societies (SEFORIS)

SEFORIS is a multidisciplinary research programme funded by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme. It investigates social enterprises from the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Hungary, Romania, China and Russia from an international comparative perspective. SEFORIS looks at the processes and structures of social enterprises for generating innovation and inclusion, as well as at the formal and informal institutional conditions which contribute to the development of social enterprises.


Objective 1: Enhancing our understanding of the role of social enterprise in leading us to a more inclusive and innovative society.

We wish to shed new light on the processes that social enterprises undertake, experiment with, and scale in the following five domains:

  • Organisation and governance
  • Public and private financing
  • Innovations
  • Market and society
  • Behavioural and societal change (i.e. impact)

Objective 2: Developing insights into social enterprises and their contexts – How formal and informal institutions, social capital environment and resources affect social enterprise performance and vice versa.

Understanding the institutional environment is key to understanding transferability and replication across geographies (local, regional, national) and to understanding what the needs are for any particular ecosystem to advance. This analysis will help provide insights into areas where outcomes are generally difficult to measure. The results of actions taken by government, social venture intermediaries, the private sector, etc. are very difficult to isolate and identify, with questions of "systemic effects" often hindering the analysis of the amount of resources that should be dedicated to respective projects. In our research into relevant background information, we wish to look at historical and other aspects of formal and informal contexts to develop better ways of making informed inferences about specific actions and the likely effect on social enterprises operating in any particular geographical area.

Objective 3: Developing new policy-relevant insights that are thoroughly thought through and drawing up stakeholder-relevant recommendations.

Debate on the policymaking implications of our work will run as a common thread throughout the project. We aim to integrate the evidence and insights that will emerge from the study of the previous two themes, into compelling policy propositions that speak directly to the needs set out by the EU. In particular, we aim to help shape new public policy initiatives in three distinct areas: (i) the area of emerging social entrepreneurship both at the EU and member-state levels, and outside Europe (China, Russia); (ii) that of social innovation and inclusiveness at the national and the EU level, and outside Europe (China, Russia); (iii) areas of both emerging social entrepreneurship and social innovation in European welfare states in relation to emerging market economies.



The project consortium investigates 27 case studies of social enterprises in relevant countries, with over 230 interviews conducted on the core topics mentioned above. May 2015 saw the start of a large-scale quantitative data collection process, with over 1.000 social enterprises being surveyed on their practices, as well as on their input for policy recommendations.



Country report on Germany | English | German

Cross-country report

Executive summaries of country reports

SEFORIS project summary

Visit the SEFORIS website for more country reports.


Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)

The MOOC consists of 5 different modules of around 15 minutes. Each module is given by a different member of the SEFORÏS research team. Find more information here.


SEFORIS website

For more information visit the official website:

Team presentation | Final project conference

Project lead

  • Johanna Mair, Professor for Organization, Strategy and Leadership

Faculty and researchers

  • Alexandra Ioan, Doctoral Programme in Governance | Research Associate to Johanna Mair

  • Nikolas Rathert, Postdoctoral Researcher