Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Business

Subject Categories

Business Administration, Management, and Operations


Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business


Decision Sciences and Innovation Dept

Thesis Advisor

Raymund B. Habaradas

Defense Panel Chair

Emilina R. Sarreal

Defense Panel Member

Benito L. Teehankee
Marites M. Tiongco
Manuel R. Tanpoco
John Paolo R. Rivera


Purpose, theoretical foundations, and research design. This dissertation aimed to explain the viability of higher education institution (HEI)-based units in charge of social entrepreneurship (SE) support and incubation through a critical realist approach. This research provided narrative accounts of HEI stakeholder experiences related to SE support and incubation. This study was employed in two phases: (1) a critical realist multiple case study research design of cases in the Philippines and (2) cases outside the Philippines. The theoretical foundations of this dissertation are systems theory, specifically the Viable Systems Model (VSM), and stakeholder theory. Due to the risks brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, primary and secondary data were collected through online video conferences and storing relevant published data on websites and social media. The data were analyzed through qualitative coding aligned with the VSM approach and the critical realist RRREIC schema of event resolution, theoretical redescription of events, retrodiction of initial causal mechanisms, elimination of alternative explanations, and the identification and correction of current-best causal mechanisms. This research primarily employed online data gathering techniques given the constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. This dissertation focused only on SE support and incubation within the higher education context. Standalone social incubators and social incubators are excluded from this study.

Key findings. Social entrepreneurship support and incubation within higher education is still a nascent field. SE support and incubation units within the HEI context has two primary purposes: (1) developing students as social entrepreneurs or social innovators and (2) incubation of social enterprises in partnership with communities. Social impact units that support student social entrepreneurs and incubate social enterprises do not necessarily self-identify as social enterprise incubators. Thus, the viability of SE support and incubation refers to (1) the capability of an HEI and its social impact unit to functionally exist over time considering external conditions and (2) capability for continuous fulfillment of purpose. The seven mechanisms of viable SE support and incubation units in higher education are (1) community-as-partners mechanism, (2) recursive systems identity mechanism, (3) systems and stakeholder multidimensionality mechanism, (4) key person mechanism, (5) institutionalization mechanism, (6) digitalization mechanism, and (7) ecosystem of support mechanism.

This study discovered that the general principles of VSM (recursiveness, complexity, variety, cohesiveness, and responsiveness) are applicable, but the depiction of a standalone incubator’s VSM diagram is not applicable to HEI-based social impact units. Moreover, the narrative descriptions of viability, based on the case studies, pertained to the availability of human and material resources (funding, manpower, space) and satisfying the needs of stakeholders (primarily the mission-driven students and partner communities). Stakeholder needs within and beyond the unit are strongly important and interdependent. The insight of this research is that the multidimensionality of stakeholder roles and goals all overlay with the specific context of the social impact centers as the system-in-focus. Multidimensionality means that not only the within-HEI contextual needs of the stakeholders must be considered, but also the beyond-HEI needs (e.g., career, personal development, and the like.) SE support and incubation performed by HEI units did not necessarily mean having social enterprises that are self-sufficient; the HEI context places primacy on student learning and embracing of a prosocial mindset especially in the Philippine setting.

Key recommendations. Academic units with SE support and incubation units should be mindful of three outcomes as a platform for general social entrepreneurship: (1) the support and formation of student social entrepreneurs, (2) the support and incubation of social enterprises, and (3) the development of partner communities. HEI-based units should not fall into the trap of mindlessly targeting to form a certain number of social enterprise startups as a metric HEI-based SE units must cultivate an external ecosystem of support that can better facilitate the incubation of social enterprises. Directors and managers of social impact units are critical especially in the organic phase of the social initiatives. In these stages, managers should remain flexible, prioritize gaining proof-of-concept, and align activities with the HEI’s prosocial mission and culture

the activities of the social impact centers should be significantly aligned with the identity of the HEI itself.

Originality/Value. Although traditional incubation research has been a rich field of study and practice, the literature review, and multiple case studies revealed that social entrepreneurship support and incubation units within a higher education context can be considered an emergent phenomenon.

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Physical Description

390 leaves, illustrations


Social entrepreneurship; Business incubators

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