Unlocking the Dynamics of Social Entrepreneurship: An Investigation in Northwest Ireland Research Method Paper





Quantitative Data, Qualitative Insights, Motivations, Challenges, Thematic Analysis


The purpose of this research is to examine the establishment and development of social enterprises and entrepreneurs in Northwest Ireland. Using a multi-method approach which combines qualitative and quantitative methods, the research aims to understand the dynamics, challenges, and motivations behind social entrepreneurship. The research design commences with quantitative data collection and analysis, which subsequently informs and enriches the qualitative phase. In the first phase, the research applies a shallow cases analysis to develop the questions for the subsequent survey and interviews. A self-administered online questionnaire, facilitated through a snowball sampling approach, captures quantitative data. The collaboration with regional development entities bolsters the survey process, aiming to construct a demographic profile of social entrepreneurs. The goal of this phase is to gather information that will help explain and describe the motives and difficulties faced by social entrepreneurs. The second phase unfolds through in-depth interviews, engaging social entrepreneurs and stakeholders, including government departments. The aim is to fully understand the formation and evolution process. To understand what factors, impact on this process and how they overcome these events. The research uses a methodological toolkit that includes theme analysis for qualitative insights and SPSS for quantitative data analysis. This multi-method research contributes to the growing of literature on social entrepreneurship, particularly in regional contexts. The findings extend implications for various stakeholders, including government agencies, higher education institutions, and intermediaries actively involved in supporting and enhancing the impact of social enterprises. Essentially, the research provides a context-specific and comprehensive explanation of how social entrepreneurship has developed in Northwest Ireland. In summary, the research effectively advocates for a nuanced knowledge of the dynamics of social entrepreneurship in regional contexts by capturing the richness and complexity of the subject matter through the well-chosen use of a multi-method approach. The results contribute to scholarly discourse and provide practical insights for those committed to promoting social innovation and bringing about constructive changes in society.

Author Biographies

Suzhou Wei, Atlantic Technology University, Ireland

Suzhou Wei is a Research Master's student at Atlantic Technological University, specializing in social entrepreneurship. Suzhou's research focuses on the formation and evolution of social enterprises in Northwest Ireland, employing a mixed-methods approach. This work aims to inform and enhance strategies for social enterprise development.

Isobel Cunningham, Atlantic Technological University, Ireland

Dr. Isobel Cunningham is a lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Atlantic Technological University. Her interest lies in clusters, inclusive entrepreneurship and SME development. She is currently leading a number of projects in the area of entrepreneurship and innovation.

Laura Bradley, Ulster University

Professor Laura Bradley McCauley PhD, FCIM, CMBE
Laura is a Professor at Ulster University. Her research interests include inclusive entrepreneurship and examining the global digital financial services sector. She has leads on many digitally focused projects. She has widely published including the International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour & Research.