The first session of the 2015-2016 Doctoral Seminar in Social Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy (SEPHI) took place at the ESSEC campus outside of Paris on December 11, 2015, bringing together a diverse mix of presentations on philanthropy and social enterprise, as well insight into the nuts and bolts of how to prepare, manage and publish high quality research as presented by Anne-Claire Pache. The day was split into two sessions each covering a scholarly paper presentation followed by three doctoral research projects.
The morning session kicked off with Prof. Pamala Wiepking presenting the overview of the academic literature on charitable giving based on a literature review of over 500 articles, through which she identified eight mechanisms as the driving forces behind charitable giving: 1) Awareness of needs 2) Solicitation 3) Costs/benefits 4) Altruism 5) Reputation 6) Psychological reward 7) Values and 8) Efficacy. Wiepking stressed the need for interdisciplinary approaches to understand causal relationships on how these mechanisms work. Program participants discussed how these eight drivers interact with each other, the efficacy of national campaigns for charitable causes and the role of independent, wealthy philanthropists. The issue of wealthy philanthropists was echoed throughout the day as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had recently announced his intention to donate 99% of his Facebook shares to a for-profit charitable organization under his control as opposed to donating to a non-profit structure. Justifications for the for-profit structure include more freedom with how to spend the money, such as equity investments.
Next, three PhD students presented their planned dissertations. First, Aurélie Soetens of HEC Liege presented her research on the enabling factors of sustained participation in workers’ cooperatives. Although her first article will be a theoretical review, Aurélie also shared her experience at a social cooperative in South America, which really conveyed her passion for the topic and perhaps could be a source of future empirical work. Next, Theresa Gehringer of the University of Basel presented an outline for her dissertation on the linkage of corporate social responsibility and corporate philanthropy. An outstanding example of a dissertation outline, participants applauded her ambition but also stressed the challenges ahead. Working with a large dataset of Swiss corporations and foundations, her research spans descriptive, causal and explorative dimensions with the ultimate goal of method development for impact measurement. The last presentation of the morning session, Nava Cohen of ESSEC presented overviews on her three essays related to corporate philanthropy. She takes a somewhat unique approach in that she approaches the issue from an accounting perspective to understand the strategic purposes of corporate giving. Participants found her planned article on corporate philanthropy and audit quality particularly interesting; the article will identify situations where auditors and firms donate to the same charitable organizations and the subsequent impact on the audit quality.
At the start of afternoon, Prof. Anne-Claire Pache presented “How to prepare, manage and publish good research in social entrepreneurship and philanthropy.” Particularly useful for those starting the PhD process, the presentation offered insight on how to transform curiousness about a phenomenon into a research question. Once a clear research question is identified, how do you choose a suitable method? Suggestions included taking into account what you like to do, identifying your skillset and understanding the resources at your disposal. Additional advice included how to identify journals for publication, how to clearly establish your academic contributions and moreover understanding the process and how to deal with rejection.
The second paper presentation was given by Prof. Kévin André, on the topic of performance measurement and social impact assessment hybridization. André presented a model whereby conflicting institutional logics may be understood through the combination of financial accounting and social impact assessment to create a hybrid performance evaluation procedure. Through a longitudinal case study of a safe drinking water project in Bangladesh, André used participatory observation, participatory interviews and internal documents to illustrate the flow from outputs to outcomes. Conversation centered around the use of key performance indicators (KPIs) and how to generate buy-in from stakeholders. Next, Noomi Weinryb presented her article “Lego or Tetris? A Comparative Study of Philanthropists and the Decomposability of Institutional Logics.” The paper found that philanthropists are more isomorphic and consistent in their instantiations of institutional logics in terms of symbolic and material practices, i.e. institutional logics are not that decomposable (Tetris) and context is less relevant than resource dependence. In the final presentation of the day, Philippe Eiselein presented preliminary findings from his first article, “Social Entrepreneurship: A Literature Review. The research questions he intends to answer include identifying the critical success factors and challenges of the business models of social entrepreneur and the processes through which social entrepreneur scale-up. Feedback included advice on theory selection and how to define a particular research angle.
Overall, the day was an informative session within a friendly environment for researchers to present research with the possibility for stimulating discussion and alternative perspectives. Particularly relevant for beginning Ph.D. students, the seminar enabled critical feedback and useful advice on identifying research topics, selection of methodologies and tips for the publishing process that will be of great value for doctoral students at the outset of their dissertations.