Social capital and the process of social innovation: a case study of technology-based social enterprises in South Africa

Matsimela, Rebotile
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The research is based on a study of South African social enterprises that are leveraging technological innovations to deliver social, environmental and economical solutions in an efficient and sustainable manner. Previous studies have shown that social capital is crucial for the success of any innovation. However, most of the research has focused on the influence of social capital on innovations by commercial enterprises and for economic development. Therefore, the study seeks to fill this gap by exploring how social capital influences the process of social innovation of technology- based social enterprises. This it achieves by investigating the dimensions of social capital as well as the stages in the process of social innovation. In effect, the study demonstrates the connection between the concepts of social capital and social innovation. A qualitative case study approach was undertaken with the founders of four South African technology- based social enterprises from Tongaat, KwaZulu Natal, Muizenberg, Western Cape, Braamfontein, Johannesburg and Stellenbosch, Cape Town. The empirical data was collected through face-to-face and telephonic in-depth interviews using a semi-structured questionnaire. The data was then analysed using an inductive process. The findings of the study revealed that all the technology-based social enterprises are innovative. However, it was unclear how two of the innovations enhanced society’s capacity to act. Even though it was not deliberate, it was found that all the social enterprises followed each stage of the process of social innovation in a linear fashion. In regards to the relationship between social capital and the innovation process, structural social capital was found to be the most important dimension for generating ideas. As the innovation progressed to the development, prototyping and piloting stage the structural and relational social capital dimensions became played a more significant role. Furthermore, the relational and cognitive social capital dimensions were found to be more essential for scaling and evolving innovations, in comparison to the structural social capital dimension. The importance of this study is that it highlights the importance for new technology-based social enterprises to create social networks. The success of technology-based social innovation depends on the participation of different actors in the social innovation process.
A research report submitted to the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management, University of Witwatersrand, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Management in Entrepreneurship and New Venture Creation, 2017
Matsimela, Rebotile Mosogolo, (2017) Social capital and the process of social innovation in technology-based social enterprises in South Africa, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg,