Navigating New Frontiers: Social Entrepreneurship

July 2, 2024

Social entrepreneurship is being explored more and more by researchers and students within the social sciences, humanities, and beyond. The participants of the two-day Explore Program for Social Entrepreneurship struck up the conversation about how to do more with their research for societal benefit. For what is social entrepreneurship? And where do you begin? Who’s out there to inspire? 

Kicking-off together 

This first edition of two-day Explore Program for Social Entrepreneurship by ACE, soon to be Caempus, and powered by Humanities Lab, IXA-VU IXA UvA and the Law Hub, with the help of various universities was a success. Participants from the Social Sciences, Humanities and Law (SSHL) began to dive deeper into the building blocks of creating a social organization focused on positive change.  

Learning about social entrepreneurship 

A good example of learning more about social entrepreneurship in SSHL is gaining insight into the spectrum of forms it can take, ranging from foundations and non-profit organizations to businesses with a core social mission. For academics aiming to address significant societal challenges, understanding the available possibilities for social entrepreneurship is crucial. The workshop’s participants therefore delved into stakeholder management, different types of social enterprise, and how to navigate between your social cause and finances. 

Theory of change 

This shift towards initiatives outside of SSHL academia not only promises new avenues for funding and application but also challenges conventional boundaries, inviting scholars to consider the practical implications of their work.  

Learning how to form a plan and foresee the necessary steps is a key component thereof. To this end, an inspirational speaker explained the ‘theory of change,’ a framework for planning, implementing, and evaluating social change initiatives. 

Transformative initiatives in the SSHL domain 

A wide variety of initiatives can emerge directly from research developments in the SSHL domain, addressing significant societal challenges. Examples include developing mental health tools (e.g. for refugees), ensuring the preservation and accessibility of shared heritage in the public domain, providing academic courses for the personal development of elderly people, and offering research-based input on policy in education, law, and more. 

 Dantong Zhang, participant of the Explore Social Entrepreneurship programme shares: 

 “After coming to the Netherlands in September 2022, I founded a startup named ‘EmpowerfulHer’ with scholars from Morocco to promote women’s leadership in East Asia and North Africa through digital trainings and education.” 

 “The Explore Program for Social Entrepreneurship provided some hands-on knowledge and tangible tools about how to make scalable and transformative impact. I found the introduction on “the theory of change” particularly useful because it aligned with my version to build a venture for the greater good. We need a new economic model to empower more, and this requires openness and interdisciplinary collaborations.  I thank the organizing committee for keeping hope alive!” 


The organization behind the Explore Program for Social Entrepreneurship is a collaborative one. The programme is powered by IXA (both the VU IXA-GO and IXA-UvA HvA), the Humanities Lab, Law Hub and ACE – soon to be Caempus. The program is open to researchers and students in the social sciences, humanities and law from all Dutch universities. The program includes talks from inspirational and expert speakers and offers guidance from Impact / Business Developers. 

Another program that will touch upon the subject of social entrepreneurship is scheduled for the Fall of 2024 under the name of Impact Program.  

Photo by Gwendolyn Keasberry