Published in: Energy Policy
Cited as: Hillman, J., S. Axon and J. Morrissey (2018). “Social enterprise as a potential niche innovation breakout for low carbon transition.” Energy Policy 117: 445-456.
While there is growing consensus that human behaviours need to change to a more sustainable paradigm, community driven approaches, such as social enterprise, have yet to be explored as serious instruments of sustainability transition. Social enterprises sit within the third sector of the economy, typically where market or governmental failures exist in the provision of social welfare, and have increasingly become a key driver of social progress. The autonomous nature of the social-economic model applied by such organisations can represent a viable means to reduce state social welfare dependence, and is a proven model for social change. The capability of social enterprises to create both social and economic value is considered a ‘win-win’. Yet there are clear potentials for social enterprise models to be more extensively applied to address contemporary ecological challenges of neo-liberal market economies, moving towards ‘win-win-win’ outcomes across social, economic and ecological domains. This paper investigates the value of social enterprises as drivers of low-carbon transition at the community level, with an emphasis on the energy sector. Evidence from seven organisations in the UK is presented and a socio-technical transitions conceptual framework is applied to analyse these social enterprise operations as a form of social innovation.
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1. Future questions: how big should social enterprises get, what is a desirable level of proliferation of community energy social enterprises and what are the implications for community capabilities of upscaling?