Prize Gorgi Krlev wins ISTR’s Civil Society Impact Research Award

The new faculty member was rewarded for his contribution to putting social innovation and social entrepreneurship on the German policy agenda.

After receiving a best paper award from the EURAM, Gorgi Krlev, who joined ESCP Business School as an Assistant Professor of sustainability in June, was awarded the 2022 Civil Society Impact Research Award by the International Society for Third Sector Research (ISTR).

Policy and practice impact in high demand but short supply

“Impact on policy and practice is in high demand in the social sciences and management research. Unfortunately, such impact is extremely hard to prove, he argues. In contrast to the commercialization of research of the natural, health or engineering sciences for example, policy and practice impacts rest on a multitude of very diverse activities and are promoted by a multiplicity of stakeholders. They also typically require a very long time to materialize.”

The ISTR’s policy impact research award for his submission entitled “putting social innovation and social entrepreneurship on the German policy agenda” celebrates that after years of inertia, there has been a marked change recently - not least so, Gorgi argues, because of his research. The new German government’s Sondierungspapier as well as the eventual coalition treaty from 2021 prominently highlight the importance of social entrepreneurship and social innovations in addressing the grand challenges of our times, as well as the important role of civil society therein.

“The award’s legacy dates back many years, to when I was involved in acquiring funding for the ITSSOIN (Impact of the Third Sector as Social Innovation) project funded by the European Commission. Its aim was to investigate the contribution of civil society organizations to social innovation relative to those of businesses and the state,” Gorgi Krlev adds.

A Best Book award from AOM

One of the main outputs of the research project was the open access book Social Innovation: Comparative Perspectives. The book promotes findings on social innovations across seven fields of activity, ranging from arts and culture, to healthcare, to environmental sustainability in cities, across nine European countries. It has received acclaim not only for the comprehensiveness of the research programme, but especially for the integration of results across contexts and its transparency as regards the applied methodology.

The Best Book 2019 award committee of the Public and Nonprofit Division of the Academy of Management (AOM) highlighted that the book “clearly outlines methodological approaches for analyzing social innovation, with sufficient detail that other studies could replicate. It also has practical value because it provides guidance to practitioners regarding how they can achieve social innovation in their contexts. The synthesis chapters are well written and bring the diverse empirical chapters together in a coherent way to establish why this book matters.”

A number of efforts that are neither incentivized, nor rewarded in the current academic system

However, the book itself was only a small stepping stone towards research impact. Gorgi Krlev subsequently engaged in a number of efforts that are neither incentivized, nor rewarded in the current academic system. For example, he:

  • Wrote a blog post for the Social Innovation Academy, an association of +1,300 social innovation practitioners about: Social innovation policies: Moving from high hopes to a coordinated policy strategy
  • Issued a call to action for Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, the oldest German political foundation, within a series on “progressive social and economic policy” entitled: Europäische Politik für Soziale Innovationen (featured in English by Euclid Network: European Policy for Social Innovation)
  • Convened a multi-stakeholder panel to develop a white paper on social innovation at Euclid Network’s 2020 Summit involving policy experts from the European Commission, the OECD and the European Venture Philanthropy Association (EVPA) (canceled due to COVID-19)
  • Developed and published a policy white paper in collaboration with Ashoka and the German Social Entrepreneurship Network e.V. (SEND) before the German elections of 2021 to provide concrete strategies for: Supporting social entrepreneurship and social innovation in Germany (only available in German)
  • Delivered a keynote address in the context of the 2nd Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) Conference held by the European Commission’s DG Employment, which brought together +300 participants from across Europe, with a focus on: Boosting social innovation: how to do it?
  • Conducted a practice and policy oriented, international study on “Financing Social Innovation” with 3 targeted launch events that involved four members of the German parliament (delegates of CDU, FDP, Bündnis 90 Die Grünen and Die Linke), executives of leading foundations, social economy organizations and state-banks as well as public sector leaders from Portugal, the UK and Canada. Each of the events attracted +200-400 participants.

Gorgi reflects: “I am not so naïve to claim that I personally, or a specific research output have caused the impact on German policy that I described initially. It is foremost the organizations working on the ground, such as SEND or Euclid Network (an organization for which Gorgi has been serving on the Board of Directors since 2017, in a voluntary, non-executive and non-paid role) who have endorsed my application for the award, which cause such impacts with their relentless work. But researchers and research can play an important part in supporting and accelerating their activities with solid evidence.”

I hope the award and the impact work it celebrates will provide additional impetus for achieving a sustainable transformation.

He adds: “However, the range of activities described above carries two important messages: First, if researchers want to make a difference, they must engage in very different exchange formats than they are typically used to and should seek to co-create with a diversity of stakeholders. Second, social science research can have important impacts, which can be traced and connected to research outputs. However, for the research evidence to unfold such impacts it needs to be actively promoted, translated for stakeholders to understand it and must be made actionable. If scholars are not ready to engage in this way, policy and practice impacts will remain wishful thinking and their lack will continue to undermine the relevance of science and research in society.”

“I previously laid out a vision of how academia would need to transform in order not only to become more sustainable, but also have a real impact on sustainability challenges. I hope the award and the impact work it celebrates will provide additional impetus for achieving a sustainable transformation.”