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The research transforming business design

Dimo Dimov’s research was used to create the Social Enterprise and Innovation Programme, which helped generate £3.3 million of investment in the South West

Hands holding a lightbulb filled with fairy lights
Dimo's research on entrepreneurship was central to the success of SEIP

Building a successful business is difficult. Around 60% of start-ups will fail within three years. So how do you turn a good idea into a successful venture?

Supporting social entrepreneurs

Professor Dimo Dimov set out to help answer that question. His research on entrepreneurship was used to create the Social Enterprise and Innovation Programme (SEIP). Designed to support social entrepreneurs in the West of England, the three-year programme helped over 500 aspiring entrepreneurs and small businesses in the area.

Dimo and colleagues launched the programme in 2016. They recognised that social enterprises face more challenges than ‘traditional’ start-ups, due to their ‘unconventional’ business model. This type of business tries to balance social impact against profit. This might mean employing people who might otherwise struggle to find work, donating revenue to charity or building sustainability into working practices.

SEIP provided participants with a minimum of 12 hours of support. It gave potential entrepreneurs and new businesses advice on things like business model design and upskilling workers. The programme helped participants explore and test ideas, but also to understand what being a social entrepreneur entails.

Existing small businesses were offered a programme called ‘Business Incubation’. This helped businesses explore routes for effective launch, growth and investment.

We came together with the aim to create and sustain an innovation pipeline to help aspiring and current social entrepreneurs to further their ideas or ventures
Dimo Dimov Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

People and profit

According to an independent impact assessment, SEIP supported over 500 aspiring entrepreneurs and small businesses in the West of England and contributed £3.3 million to the local economy.

This report puts the full financial impact of the project at around £16.3 million, including:

  • £5.6 million in funding
  • £1.7 milllion in employment benefits
  • £395,000 in volunteer hours.

Participants’ ventures also brought major non-financial advantages to the area. On top of the new jobs created, communities benefited from the social change agendas of these businesses. Improvements like better mental health, increased employability and reduced social isolation were valued at £212.4 million by the independent assessment.

While this is a testament to the impact and value of social enterprises, it also demonstrates the effectiveness of SEIP and Dimo’s research. The report found that participants’ businesses had grown and attracted investment at a far greater rate than the average social enterprise or small business.

Think your way to success

SEIP was designed around a new concept of entrepreneurship put forward in Dimo’s research. This focuses on ‘future-oriented design’ and explores what it means to think and act as an entrepreneur.

People have traditionally approached entrepreneurship in a linear way. They think of the journey from initial idea to successful venture as a clear series of actions, with specific milestones identified at the beginning.

‘Future-oriented design’ is a new way to look at this process. It advocates a circular approach to building a business, where the model is constantly revisited and re-evaluated against market desirability, operational feasibility and financial viability. It follows a 'design science' approach.

The other part of Dimo’s work looks at how business people think, speak and act. It shows that successful entrepreneurship relies on probing and reflective ways of thinking and acting. Dimo has also created a model based on this theory to help would-be entrepreneurs understand how to apply this in real-life situations.

Transforming entrepreneurial thinking globally

Dimo’s theories are explored in his book The Reflective Entrepreneur. It provides budding business people with information and tangible actions for turning an idea into a successful venture.

Dimo and his collaborator Professor Joseph Pistrui also used this research to create a 'Kinetic Thinking Framework' for use in universities and corporate learning programmes. This tool aims to enable new styles of thinking, managing, and leading to navigate the entrepreneurial journey towards innovation. Since its launch in 2018, this online resource has reached 10,000 students and managers across the world, including those at major multinational companies. It’s used as part of training in entrepreneurial thinking and has been translated into Spanish and Russian.

While Dimo’s other endeavours ensure that his work reaches a global audience, improving entrepreneurship at home is still a priority for him. He and colleagues hope to continue building on the success of SEIP, by creating new business development programmes in the West of England. They hope to build a support framework, to continue to help local entrepreneurs turn their great ideas into successful ventures.

More about the Social Enterprise and Innovation Programme