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Hyejin Kwon is a PhD candidate at Brunel University London under the supervision of Dr Youngok Choi and Dr Busayawan Lam. Her research concerns about design for social enterprises and their ecosystem development and within her PhD she is exploring the state of design and innovation use in key players of the social enterprise ecosystem (e.g. governments, intermediary support organisations and social enterprises). Her research aims to create a strategic framework for design-innovation ecosystem development for social enterprises to enhance competitiveness and economic sustainability.

Research outline

Design is increasingly recognised as an important element in providing a competitive tool to companies of all sectors (DTI, 2005) enabling innovation to help companies to achieve significant differentiation in the marketplace (Porter, 1998). Design has also been continuously gaining momentum as a driver of innovation in national policy (Whicher & Walters, 2014) and consequently, design has been included in innovation policies in many European countries (Whicher, 2017). In addition, it is argued that design can provide a platform for solving problems in social innovation and social entrepreneurship/social enterprise through the cooperation of various fields, users and suppliers (Bason, 2016). As such, a new and broader understanding of the concepts and benefits of design is slowly taking root in a wide range of sectors, from business and industry to policy and society (Finnish Ministry of Employment and the Economy, 2013)

However, despite the various instances of design roles and influences in different sectors, such as business and policy, and the claims associating social enterprise with design, there is still insufficient evidence to demonstrate that the social enterprise sector, especially the key players in social enterprise ecosystems – governments, intermediary organisations and social enterprises - have used design strategically. In particular, design is not integral to social enterprise infrastructure support. This may be an underlying reason why design is not utilised strategically in this sector. Moreover, in the case of social enterprises, there may be a need for a different type of design support system or support contents that differ from the existing design support system for SMEs or general companies. For instance, business support programmes and systems surrounding social enterprises have evolved over the past decade according to the characteristics of social enterprises (Cabinet Office, 2006; British Council, 2015).

Therefore, this study claims that in order to improve the use of design in social enterprise sector, it is necessary to develop a design-innovation ecosystem specifically for social enterprises.

Read more about Hyejin's research

Kwon, H., Choi, Y. and Lam, B. (2018) 'The design and social enterprise ecosystem: How can design be applied to a developing social enterprise ecosystem?'.DRS2018. Limerick. ISSN: 2398-3132