In Research


Year: 2016
Published in: ICSEM Project
Cited as: Johnsen, S. (2016) “Social Enterprise in the United Arab Emirates: A Concept in Context and a Typology of Emerging Models”, No. 42.


This paper aims to summarise a contribution to the International Comparative Social Enterprise Models (ICSEM) Project from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It particularly highlights the relevance of the social constructionist approach adopted in the study to investigate and make sense of the social enterprise concept as an imported concept in a new environment.
This approach is used as a thread to follow through the structure proposed by the ICSEM Project, namely, to look at the concept in context, to identify social enterprise models and establish a typology, as well as to describe institutional trajectories shaping the models. This paper highlights the constructs and institutional trajectories shaping the concept, and the main findings of the study when identifying the models and establishing the typology, based on an in-depth survey of 12 social enterprises in the UAE.
While this typology can be considered as a preliminary one, it reveals creative recurrent models, with the state and private sector involved as incubators. Although the UAE offers a tax-free environment, the lack of a legal and regulatory system conducive to social enterprises seems to hamper the opportunities for them to develop and scale up.
This contribution is the first study to investigate the ecosystem of social enterprise and its deriving models, and to propose a preliminary typology in the UAE.