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Generating profit for a social or ecological cause as a social business (SB) concept is acknowledged for its potential contribution to regional development. In comparison to the traditional profit-only business firms, SB is considered a more suitable business model to protect and underpin the socio-economic and ecological welfare of a market or region that is served by different types of public and private sector businesses. Despite our growing acknowledgement of SBs’ potential for regional development, we have limited knowledge of how SBs could prolifically influence diverse social and ecological issues across different regions. In addition to a few notable examples of SBs’ socio-economic and ecological contribution, many SBs also struggle with their business operations across the world to survive and prosper, considering that SBs need to satisfy both their commercial and social stakeholders. Operational sustainability is more challenging for SBs than for profit-only business firms, as the latter are only mostly focussed on satisfying their commercial stakeholders. Therefore, a timely call is to explore an appropriate equilibrium between SBs’ social, ecological and commercial policy and strategy to strategically leverage their triple value-creating variables in order to enhance regional socio-economic and ecological welfare.

 

The ongoing acknowledgement of SBs’ potential to address social and ecological concerns, and the subsequent interests in SB research from different research areas, such as economics, business, entrepreneurship, ethics, sociology, information technology, among others, lead us to an alienated instead of an integrated field of SB research. Therefore, we also lack integrated theoretical and practical development in this field that could significantly enable SBs to prolifically pursue their triple bottom line, simultaneously. The lack of such integrated propositions subsequently lessens SBs’ potential to contribute to regional development. On the one hand, there is the possibility of taking advantage of the SB concept as a means of generating profit by promoting the social or ecological cause. On the other hand, as a relatively newer business concept, SBs lack appropriate policy and legislative support in comparison to the traditional profit-only businesses. It also undermines SBs’ operational sustainability and their capacities to underpin regional socio-economic and ecological welfare. There is debate about the effectiveness of socially-responsible investments to simultaneously improve the social, ecological and commercial performance of SBs. To contribute to this debate, we need more conceptual development and empirical replication to understand why and how SBs could be a superior business model to address different regional social and ecological concerns while making profit.  As a consequence, different forms of SBs’ potential contribution to society and ecology across diverse urban and rural regions need to be examined.

In this context, this special issue aims to develop novel insights into how SBs could sustainably manage their triple (social, ecological and economic) value dynamics in an integrated way to ensure their commercial sustainability while underpinning their socio-ecological contribution for regional development.

 

Thematic Area

The extent of business surplus that would be generated by SBs after their operational costs could be considered as the extent of their commercial sustainability. SBs’ contribution to regional socio-ecological sustainability could be considered as their long-term operational consistency, which does not detrimentally impact a region’s societal and ecological features, but preserves and reinforces those features for regional development. Based on this background, the guest editors encourage theoretical and/or empirical contributions in the following two core areas and related to subsequent area-specific research questions (RQs); however it is not a comprehensive list of RQs:

(1) Social business hybrids (contributing to people and planet while making a profit) for regional development:

  • What policy and legislative support would be instrumental for SBs to underpin their contribution to regional communities and ecology while making a profit?
  • How could regional business values impact on developing dominant SB frameworks to profitably contribute to regional societies and environments? What are the generalization aspects of such SB frameworks across different regions?
  • How could SBs effectively balance the informal governance mechanisms (e.g. trust and collective norms) of different regions and more formal governance systems (e.g. state-led or corporate governance) to contribute to regional societies and environments while making a profit?
  • How could strategic and everyday entrepreneurial initiatives be better connected to regional social and ecological problems? How could SBs transform such connectedness into profit-making ventures while contributing to regional socio-ecological development?

(2) Balancing efforts for SBs’ economic sustainability and their contribution to socio-ecological sustainability, in order to underpin regional development:

  • What are the core challenges to simultaneously pursue the SBs’ triple bottom line (contributing to society and ecology while making a profit), and how could such challenges be addressed in order to underpin SBs’ contribution to regional development?
  • How could SBs proactively manage business risks and uncertainty during both normal times and times of crises in order to sustain their economic stability while contributing to regional social and ecological sustainability?
  • How could exploring the social and economic value of embryonic technologies be instrumental in balancing SBs’ social and economic missions in order to strategically leverage SBs’ social, ecological and economic value-creating variables for regional development?
  • What additional support would be instrumental to sustain SBs that are launched and/or managed by different under-represented groups of entrepreneurs (especially women, indigenous people and immigrants) to ensure such SBs’ ongoing economic viability, in order to contribute to societies and environments across different regions?

Author Information

Regional Studies is focused on “the development of theories and concepts, empirical analysis and policy debate in the field of regional studies. The Journal publishes original research spanning the economic, social, political and environmental dimensions of urban and regional (subnational) change”. In this context, this special issue aims to develop novel insights into how SBs could sustainably manage their triple (social, ecological and economic) value dynamics in an integrated way to ensure their economic sustainability while underpinning their socio-ecological contribution for regional development.

Prospective contributors to this special issue should note that the regional focus of the special issue topic and published papers in this issue must be adequately developed and emphasised to meet the Journal’s aims and scope. Papers submitted to the special issue should focus specifically on the core contribution of social business to regional development, based on underpinning the social and commercial missions of social businesses for regional development.

A special issue workshop will be organized at the 2022 RSA Winter Conference (Regions in Transition: Balancing Economic, Social and Environmental Sustainability in the Face of Uncertainty), London, UK, 10 November 2022 (https://www.regionalstudies.org/events/2022-winter-conference/#). The deadline to submit an expression of interest (EOI) to participate in this author workshop is 31 August 2022. The EOI should be sent to Dr. Riad Shams, with all other guest editors in copy. Please note, participating in this author workshop is not a prerequisite to submit a paper to this special issue, nor does participating in this workshop ensure the acceptance of a paper in this special issue.

 

Timeline

An extended abstract of no more than 350 words should be submitted to Dr. Riad Shams with all other guest editors in copy by 30 June 2022. Authors should include the paper title, contributors’ details, the abstract, and keywords.

EOI submission deadline to participate in the author workshop at the 2022 RSA Winter Conference, London, UK, 10 November 2022: 31 August 2022.

Full manuscripts will be expected by 31 December 2022 and will be subject to the journal’s normal pee-review process.

 

Guest Editors

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