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Centre for Social and Sustainable Enterprise

The Centre for Social and Sustainable Enterprise (CSSE) addresses the connections between entrepreneurial activity, innovation and the transition towards more environmentally and socially sustainable ways of doing business.

The centre comprises two closely-connected strands (Social Enterprise and Sustainable Enterprise), which build on a tradition of research, teaching and engagement activities in the Business and Law Schools that dates back more than 25 years. This includes pioneering work on cooperatives, performance measurement for social enterprises, values-based approaches to management, corporate social responsibility, craft-based ventures, and family businesses.

Our team Projects Publications News and events

Our aims

  • To create a focal point for a growing number of researchers who are active in this area, facilitating research-related activities such as joint bid-writing, developmental workshops, seminars, public events, and providing informal support and advice.
  • To provide a stronger link between SSE research, scholarship and teaching activity, both in formal and informal curriculum areas, building on our research-led pedagogy and our links with the Associate Lecturer community.
  • To raise the external profile of our SSE research and encourage more external engagement with funders/sponsors, prospective PhD students, visiting academics and practitioners and others.
  • To offer a point of contact in the Business and Law Schools for anyone engaged in enterprise-related activities in other parts of the University.

Our research

Research in the Centre for Social and Sustainable Enterprise is oriented around our existing research specialisms, which include:

  • Social and environmental practice in SMEs, social enterprises and other organisational types
  • Distinctive forms of enterprise, including social, craft and family-based ventures
  • Values-based approaches to management and corporate social responsibility
  • Impact investment in socially and environmentally responsible enterprises
  • Green innovations, start-up ventures and growth processes
  • Public policies and cross-sector collaborations to facilitate SSE / social and environmental goals
  • Entrepreneurship and innovation pedagogy, including a focus on SSE aspects
  • Evaluation of social enterprise interventions
  • The role of social enterprise in social innovation processes
  • Business support for rural based craft entrepreneurship

However, we will continue to incorporate new or modified themes, which may emerge from discussions in the cluster.  Given our multidisciplinary approaches, and the multi-level nature of the issues we address, we welcome new collaborations with other research groupings.

Impact of CSSE in teaching

We have incorporated CSSE research insights, including our own case-based material, into Open University teaching materials, including B205 Exploring Innovation and Entrepreneurship, B327 Creating Futures: Sustainable Enterprise and Innovation and the new MBA elective module BB851 Entrepreneurship in Context, and have promoted doctoral research in this area, through several recent studentships.

Our enterprise-related research is also featured in open educational resources, such as the OU Sustainability Hub on the OpenLearn platform, the Entrepreneurship Accelerator in OpenLearn Create and has informed BBC/OU co-productions such as Hidden Histories: Britain’s Oldest Family Businesses (BBC Four) and The Bottom Line (BBC Radio 4 / BBC World Service).

Our students live in a world that is confronted by many environmental and societal challenges, the greatest of which is climate change – now increasingly declared as a ‘climate emergency’. Both the issues and the solutions are typically complex, entrenched and often politically charged. Public, private and voluntary sector organisations often play a key role as ‘middle actors’ in these transition processes. We seek to inform policy and practice in this this area and to help organisations transform their strategies and working practices.