Press releases | Development Cooperation 25.08.2011

Kick-off: Academic network IRENE I SEE to research social entrepreneurship in some countries of Africa and Latin America

The Siemens Stiftung and Zeppelin University have established the International Research Network for Social Economic Empowerment (IRENE I SEE) for social economic analysis in selected countries of Africa and Latin America with a special focus on “social enterprises”.

Entrepreneurial thinking and innovative solutions are of central importance in enabling social and economic development to succeed in the long term. IRENE I SEE supports research in Latin America and Africa into the ways in which social enterprises work. It is a particular concern of the Siemens Stiftung to reinforce knowledge transfer between these two regions, which differ in many ways, but also have much in common. We see ourselves as bridge-builders who, by making specific recommendations for action, aim to broaden the dialogue between business, politics and science so as to strengthen social entrepreneurs and social transformation processes”, explains Ulrike Wahl, Chief Operating Officer of the Siemens Stiftung.

The setting-up process is being coordinated by Zeppelin University in Friedrichshafen, where the research network is embedded in the interdisciplinary Civil Society Center I CiSoC. The network, which is planned to have a lifetime of four years, includes four other partner universities

- Adama University, Adama, Ethiopia
- Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Columbia
- EGADE Business School, Monterrey, Mexico
- Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa

and focuses on studying the feasibility, utility, limits and long-term effects of social economic empowerment.

Over the next few years, the partner universities will jointly supervise doctoral research work on the ground, continue their analyses beyond the scope of the network and make them available to interested sections of the public, scientists and the relevant institutions.

“The research network operates within the framework of a post-graduate programme with a total of six PhD students in the countries concerned and one postdoc coordination position, in the areas of economics and politics, as well as town planning and sociology. It focuses on case studies of local projects on the ground, their feasibility and scalability, any need for subsidy and regulation, and the sustainability of social economic empowerment – in various countries and various branches or sectors”, explain Prof. Dr. Stephan A. Jansen, the Director of the Civil Society Center and President of Zeppelin University, and Lisa Hanley PhD, coordinator of the network.

“Social economic empowerment” is understood, in this context, as the process of economic self-empowerment through professional assistance. This now has a greater focus on “entrepreneurial solutions to social problems”, which in the context of the much-criticised traditional development cooperation, in particular, have been discussed for some years as a promising new way forward.

At the kick-off meeting in Berlin, on 25th - 27th August, all of the IRENE I SEE doctoral students, the participating professors, the coordinators and the representatives of the Siemens Stiftung will meet for the first time. In the Magnus Haus, directly opposite the Museum Island, they will outline the scope of the research network and finalise its organisational structure. The core elements of the three day meeting are presentations by each of the six doctoral students and their critical discussion, as well as the generation of a joint project framework.

ENCOURAGE. empowering people. The Siemens Stiftung wants to empower people to actively address the social challenges of today and thereby refers ideally to the values of Werner von Siemens. Together with cooperation partners, the foundation designs and implements local and international projects with the aim to promote individual responsibility and self-initiative. The Foundation is committed to enlarging basic services and social entrepreneurship, promoting education and strengthening of culture. The Siemens Stiftung pursues an integrative approach and stands for responsible, impact-oriented and innovative project work. The foundation was established in 2008 and cooperates with the other six Siemens foundations established by the company in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, France, Germany and the U.S. The project work of the foundation is concentrated on the focus regions Africa, Latin America and Germany/Europe.

Zeppelin University (ZU) is a privately endowed institution of higher education, officially recognised by the federal state of Baden-Wuerttemberg and accredited by the German Council of Science and Humanities since 2003. As a “university between business, culture and politics” with 851 students, 70 academics and just under 200 staff at present, it consequently undertakes both education and research in an interdisciplinary, individualised and international spirit. Many awards have been bestowed on it – among others it was the national winner of the “Hochschule in Gesellschaft” award in 2011, for outstanding commitment to society. In the relevant rankings it has been placed in the leading group from the beginning.

The Civil Society Center | CiSoC was established in 2010 to undertake research into social innovations, social developments and social enterprises in particular, with financial support from numerous foundations such as the Stiftung Mercator, Siemens Stiftung and JP Morgan Chase. Currently with five staff headed by Prof. Dr. Stephan A. Jansen and many international partner universities, it runs national and international empirical projects in post-graduate programmes.