From 8th to 10th September 2021, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Graduate School of Business & Society – ALTIS and E4Impact Foundation hosted the 13th International Social Innovation Research Conference (ISIRC) in Milan. ISIRC is the world’s leading interdisciplinary social innovation research conference. Every year it is organized in a different university, and it brings together scholars from across the globe to discuss social innovation and social entrepreneurship from various perspectives. Partners of this year’s conference have been: Glasgow Caledonian University, Sheffield University, Swinburne University of Technology, Saïd Business School, Oxford University, University of York, African Network of Social Entrepreneurship Scholars, and International Society for Third-Sector Research.
This year’s theme has been: “Enabling the change! Social innovation and enterprises for a better future”, that is a perfect title if we think the time in which the event has been organized. The challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic led the chairs Prof. Matteo Pedrini, prof. Mario Molteni and Dr. Giacomo Ciambotti to organize the conference in dual-mode, on-site and virtual. This has been an opportunity for hosting around 100 scholars attending in presence at the campus in Milan, while more than 200 participants have been connected from home.
Overall, ISIRC has been a great event, with more than 300 research presentations from all over the world (from Latin America, Africa, Asia, etc.) and around the 21 conference streams. Among those, one that raised particular success was “social entrepreneurship and social innovation in Africa.” Such a topic involved around 28 scholars that presented their work in this research field, thus demonstrating the growing interest in conducting qualitative research in the African continent, which is still under exploration! Some of the analyzed themes were: informal entrepreneurship in Africa, social innovation, and female entrepreneurship, as well as discussions on topics related to ecosystems and growth in the continent.
From my personal experience as an ISIRC 2021 co-chairman, I can say that the conference has been characterized by a productive dialogue, a shared and interdisciplinary knowledge among the 21 conference streams, and an excellent networking opportunity. We had the chance to deepen some aspects in an 8-panel session (one focused on researching Africa) and five remarkable keynote sessions (with Sophie Bacq, Silvia Dorado, Matthew Grimes, Johanna Mair, and Christopher Marquis). The way ahead on “enabling the impact” is challenging and requires our commitment and responsibility. We hope that this conference stimulated all the participants’ shared desire to contribute together toward better societies and a better world.
(ISIRC 2021 – Co-Chair)