Our primary research question began as:
What is the social impact that women are having/seeking to have though their involvement in social entrepreneurship?
How does it relate to women’s empowerment and gender equality?
This question evolved over the course of the research, ultimately moving away from a focus on social impact, to a more in-depth exploration of the relationship between social entrepreneurship, women’s empowerment and gender equality.
As we undertook the research, we kept in mind the guiding question of the overall project:
Does this sector have the potential to introduce a new way of approaching business that shifts the current growth-focused, masculine-dominated paradigm?
Can social enterprise provide a more gender-equal and inclusive way of creating jobs, inspiring innovation and tackling social issues?
To undertake the research, we recruited a team of 10 national social entrepreneurship experts, seeking researchers who were deeply familiar with the women-led social enterprise ecosystem in their country.
We recruited a diverse and knowledgeable team of experts, comprised of academics, sector specialists, and active women social entrepreneurs. The team included:
- Bulgaria – Nadezhda Savova-Grigorova
- France – Melanie Marcel
- Germany – Val Racheeva
- Hungary – Anna Horvath
- Ireland – Clare Mulvaney
- Italy – Valentina Pattetta
- Lithuania – Raminta Pučėtaitė
- Spain – Elena Rodriguez Blanco
- Sweden – Emelie Aho Faltskag
- UK – Servane Mouazan
We set up a cloud-based research management system to allow the consultants and Project Manager to communicate and decided on the following methodology and corresponding research tools:
Synthesis and Analysis of existing data
Tool: desk research used to answer a list of specific questions about the ecosystem
Identification of collection of representational sample of women-led social enterprises according to specified definition, as well as women social entrepreneurs more generally
Tool: Desk research and the mining of existing social enterprise networks used to fill out a short Excel spreadsheet
Collection of quantitative data on women’s social entrepreneurship
Tool: An electronic survey sent to women, including women-led social enterprise heads and those who do not meet definition
Collection of qualitative data on women’s social entrepreneurship
Tool: 10-15 telephone or skype interviews with women social entrepreneurs, including women-led social enterprise heads and those who do not meet definition
Analysis of Interviews
Tool: Content Coding Framework
Feminist Values Framework
We also developed a “Values Framework” for the project, to ensure that every step of the project would be conducted in a way that is in line with the European Women Lobby’s feminist principles. We came up with the IMPACT Principles as a guide, and made a strong effort to follow these principles throughout the project life cycle.
Inclusive – Special effort is made to identify social enterprises led by women from diverse groups including different classes, races, ethnicities, immigration statuses, ability levels, sexuality and gender presentation. Outputs are careful not to generalise experience, and to specifically draw attention to the intersections of privilege and marginalisation that different individuals and groups face; consultants understand how race, class, sexuality, ability level and other factors intersect to shape the experience of individuals and groups and pay attention to how this affects women interviewed.
Measurable – All research processes are able to be monitored and evaluated. Consultants are provided with and evaluated against clear criteria. Quantitative and qualitative data are collected using rigorous and replicable methodology. Project is closely monitored and evaluated.
Participatory – Research methodologies are conducted in empowering and participatory ways that privilege the lived experience of women; consultants have experience in undertaking participatory methodologies.
Accessible – Outputs are available in braille and all web work is accessible to visually impaired persons; research processes make special efforts to include people of different abilities, reading levels and intellectual capacities in focus groups and questionnaires.
Collaborative – Outputs are shared and disseminated via strategic collaboration; consultants conduct research in a collaborative way; overall project seeks to include and value the input of members, partners, experts and entrepreneurs, allowing all groups space to work towards a common goal.
Transformative – Outputs and research projects keep the empowerment of women and the structural transformation of gender inequalities at their heart and use efficiency arguments in support but not in lieu of transformational justifications.