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Interview Professor Cam Donaldson Glasgow Caledonian University

The Yunus Centre for Social Business & Health has a specific focus on research. What is your view on the current status of research in the field of social business globally? A: There seems to be plenty of research around innovation in the sense of coming up with new ways of helping people which can be provided and delivered in the form of social businesses. This is great. Where there is more of a gap is in studies of the impacts of such social business innovations. I think this is because many people attracted to social business are action-orientated and want to be ‘doing good’ at the coalface if you like. But independent scrutiny of the impact of social business is important and, because it is independent, tells a more powerful story. What needs to be done in order to further develop and refine social impact measurement tools and methodologies? A: The answer here is in the question, at least in part. We need to think more widely about social impacts and thus how to measure them. For example our research centre is focus on social business and health. To stress, this is not about thinking of social businesses as alternative providers of health services, although that is all well and good. Rather, we take a wide perspective and think that all social businesses, acting as they do to alleviate some aspect of social vulnerability, can make a contribution to health well-being. We then need to find tools to help us measure such impacts, but they are there – these might be measures of self-assessed health, capabilities, sense of coherence (which is essentially a measure of ‘resilience’) etc. We also need to be able to apply such measures in longitudinal studies where we might take repeated measures on individual beneficiaries of social business activities over time. Finally, we need to be able to create ‘counterfactuals’ where we can use comparator groups to assess what might have happened to such people in the absence of social business and, thus, what its added value is.

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You are currently conducting studies which are investigating the health impact of microfinance programs. What are main challenges when conducting research in this field? A: For evaluations of microcredit, I think the challenges are the same as for social business more broadly. We’d like to try to follow microcredit bank customers over a long period of time, which has not been done before. Again, we’d like to compare their experiences to those not exposed to microcredit or for whom it is not available. We’d also like to compare such experiences on a broad range of measures; not just of income and income sources but also how meaningful people’s lives have become as well as their social networks and relationships, resilience, capabilities and health. How important are cross-country comparisons through collaborations with other universities in order to get even more significant results about the impact of social businesses? A: For our research, cross-country comparisons are excellent for learning about how different contextual factors can lead to the failure, success or improvement in how social businesses are applied and operate.

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Social Business Academia Report 2013  

This report gives an overview about the various university activities that are taking place globally in the field of social business.

Social Business Academia Report 2013  

This report gives an overview about the various university activities that are taking place globally in the field of social business.

Profile for grameencl
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