Research Assistant Simon Duff, of Lincoln University’s Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit (AERU), is the second recipient of the recently established Ross Scholarship.
Named for and endowed by Lincoln University’s first Vice-Chancellor, Emeritus Professor of Agricultural Economics Bruce Ross and wife Gill, the scholarship funded Simon for a specific 12-week research project undertaken prior to starting a master’s degree, which he is now working on.
“The intent of the Ross Scholarship is to give students an opportunity to experience working in a research environment, to gain an understanding of what is involved in postgraduate research, and to acquire research skills in the field of agribusiness and economics research,” says Sebastian Wilberforce, Secretary of the Lincoln University Foundation, which administers the endowment.
Simon’s project focussed on Social Enterprises, defined as organisations that operate with a social purpose and utilise business to advance human development and social missions. Using the conceptual model of ‘Capabilities’ developed by Indian economist and philosopher Amartya Sen, a leading theorist in the areas of development economics, social choices, social indicators and indices of well-being, Simon examined evidence for the Social Value of Social Enterprises.
Sen pioneered the Capabilities approach in the early 1980s as an alternative to the welfare economics model, which he regarded as too narrowly associating well-being with resources, wealth and/or utility. He argued that there was more to life than achieving wealth and utility and introduced the Capability approach which focussed on human functioning and capabilities.
As Simon points out in his research paper, the ‘social economy’ has steadily become accepted as a valid ‘sector’ outside the public and private domains.
It is estimated that New Zealand will have around 4000 Social Enterprises by 2025 and that they could contribute around two billion dollars to the economy.
Simon says the Social Value created by a Social Enterprise has lacked a universal definition and measuring tool. To remedy this, analysts have started using Sen’s Capability approach to reconceptualise Social Value and its measurement, and this was the pathway chosen by Simon as he examined the contemporary academic literature and explored the extent to which the Capability approach was being applied within a Social Enterprise context, particularly around the concept of Social Value.
The conclusion reached in his study is that although there have been limited empirical studies assessing the Social Value created by Social Enterprises using the Capabilities approach, those that had used the perspective have laid the foundation for future research along these lines.
Simon’s research project was supervised by AERU Director Professor Caroline Saunders and Deputy Director Professor Paul Dalziel, who describe the work as highly relevant to recent Government initiatives to support and encourage Social Enterprises.