GCU is leading the world’s largest programme of research into social enterprises - businesses that trade for a social purpose. Scotland is recognised as being at the international forefront of policy support for social enterprise, and GCU’s research builds on pioneering work undertaken by Dr Michael Roy, who initially undertook a systematic review of literature focused on the health and well-being impacts of social enterprise led activity.
The approach is unusual in that rather than focusing on the ability of social enterprises to deliver health products and services, the research focuses on their work to address factors in the social environment, such as social isolation or loneliness, poverty, levels of poor education, or unemployment.
A five-year programme of research (called CommonHealth) based on this key idea has been led by GCU’s Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise) and Yunus Chair in Social Business and Health, Professor Cam Donaldson. The research was made possible by a near £2m grant jointly funded by the Medical Research Council and Economic and Social Research Council and involves an innovative partnership of universities and social enterprises around Scotland.
Although the current programme is scheduled to finish at the end of 2018, there are several other projects now running around the world involving Dr Roy and building on ideas developed by him and his colleagues here at GCU. One is in Canada, led by Queen’s University’s School of Rehabilitation Therapy, funded by the Canadian federal government, and the other in Australia, led by colleagues at Swinburne University in Melbourne, funded by the Australian Research Council.
We know that we need new thinking and approaches that lie beyond the scope of our world-class health services if we are serious about addressing the longstanding and profound health inequalities that continue to blight the lives of individuals and communities in Scotland. Our research helps us to better understand the role that social enterprises play in working to address the complex social vulnerabilities that often lie at the heart of the problem.