Theme 1

“Societal transition (societal and economic level)”

Theme coordinator: Niels Faber

Business models may be seen as instrumental to the transition of society and the economy. The idea is that changes at meso and micro levels, when gaining sufficient momentum, may result in significant scale changes in widely accepted and practised behaviour and institutional adaptations to accommodate this. The aim is to increase the understanding of the dynamics through which new business models instigate changes towards a society that builds on sustainability, circularity, and inclusivity.

Possible tracks in this theme are:
1. Collective Business Models for Transition (Track 1)
Track chairs:  Jan Jonker and Frank Berkers 

Addressing urgent socio-economic sustainability challenges, large-scale transitions are needed. Transition management (TM) is a management approach to foster and create fundamental multi-level changes enabling relevant actors to anticipate and adapt better. Central stands a collective participatory process of visioning, learning, and experimenting. These transitions are, however, locked-in in technological uncertainties, static business models, strongly institutionalised behaviour by configurations of citizens, companies, and governments, fluctuating policies, and actively changing costs and risks by new actors and businesses. So far, the TM approach has not yet been successful in achieving the aspired large-scale systemic changes.

Transitions have a fundamental impact on the traditional way business operates and leads to changes in the business proposition and – model. In this track, we link TM and the development of collaborative business models as a means for a transition towards sustainability. The concept of collaborative business model innovation is presented as an actionable approach towards sustainable transition. With ‘collaborative’ is meant that different actors shape their business model together. This collective endeavour leads to an array of innovations, including value creation, relations, and revenue models. The result is often beyond the individual, organisational benefit. For the constituents involved, it often implies also a change of mind-set. Conceptually we expand from a single firm to multiple organisations collectively creating value and from one actor to an array of engaged societal and business actors. The process of organising a business model as a collaborative activity between actors is the carrier for a transition.

For this track, we welcome a limited number of conceptual as well as empirical papers positioned at the cross-road of transition management and collective business modelling. Especially contributions based on cases such as Living Labs, large-scale (regional) experiments or operational Communities of Practice (CoPs) are most welcome.

2. Building eco-systems in Support of Social Entrepreneurship (Track 2)
Track chairs: Nikolay Dentchev and Abel Diaz

Social entrepreneurs (SE) are known for an innovative approach to resolve sustainability issues through (Austin, Stevenson, & Wei-Skillern, 2006). Regardless of their efforts, they are often confronted with several challenges that complexify the management, operation, funding and scalability of their ventures (Goyal, Sergi, & Jaiswal, 2016; Zahra, Gedajlovic, Neubaum, & Shulman, 2009). The importance of a supportive eco-systems to social entrepreneurs is clearly argued in the relevant literature (Isenberg, 2010; Isenberg & Onyemah, 2016; Letaifa, 2016). In this context, Spigel (2015, p. 50) argues that “ecosystems are combinations of social, political, economic, and cultural elements within a region that support the development and growth of innovative startups”. Despite the progress in the field, our knowledge on how to build supportive eco-systems is still underdeveloped (Acs, Stam, Audretsch, & O’Connor, 2017; Adner, 2017).
This session aims at attracting scholars to discuss their current research on how to build ecosystems in support of social entrepreneurs. We welcome papers from different methodological background – including literature reviews, theoretical-, conceptual- and empirical papers. These papers can address one or more of the following topics, which is not an exhaustive list:
– What are the main supportive mechanisms present on eco-systems for SE?
– What is the supportive role that different stakeholders can or should assume in the social entrepreneurial eco-systems (entrepreneurs, incubators, accelerators, universities, financial institutions, government, private sector, etc.)?
– What type of theories can be used to understand the functioning of eco-systems for social enterprises?
– How does the eco-system for SE differ from another type of eco-systems?
– What type of new frameworks can be developed to describe the support function of eco-systems for social entrepreneurs?
– Which insights can we gather from empirical studies on the development, establishment and dynamics of eco-systems for social entrepreneurs in developing and developed economies (challenges, opportunities, main factors, policy implications)?
– Are there case studies of best practices of supportive eco-systems for SE at the local, regional or national level?
– How can we use local, regional or national data sets (qualitative and or quantitative) to measure the support and impact of eco-systems for SE (from a different unit of analysis)?
This track seeks to involve in the discussion papers developed by senior and young academics, students, entrepreneurs and practitioners. Such variety of profiles and backgrounds will give the right mix in the audience to open a dynamic discussion and to provide relevant feedback to the ideas and work of all presenters.

Acs, Z. J., Stam, E., Audretsch, D. B., & O’Connor, A. (2017). The lineages of the entrepreneurial eco-system approach. Small Business Economics, 49(1), 1–10.
Adner, R. (2017). Ecosystem as Structure: An Actionable Construct for Strategy. Journal of Management, 43(1), 39–58.
Austin, J., Stevenson, H., & Wei-Skillern, J. (2006). Social and commercial entrepreneurship: Same, different, or both? Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice, 30(1), 1–22.
Goyal, S., Sergi, B. S., & Jaiswal, M. P. (2016). Understanding the challenges and strategic actions of social entrepreneurship at base of the pyramid. Management Decision, 54(2), 418–440.
Isenberg, D. (2010). The big idea: How to start an entrepreneurial revolution. Harvard Business Review, 88(6).
Isenberg, D., & Onyemah, V. (2016). Fostering scaleup ecosystems for regional economic growth. Innovations, 11(1/2), 60–79. Retrieved from
Letaifa, S. Ben. (2016). How social entrepreneurship emerges, develops and internationalises during political and economic transitions. European J. of International Management, 10(4), 455.
Spigel, B. (2015). The Relational Organization of Entrepreneurial Ecosystems. Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice, 41(1), 49–72.
Zahra, S. A., Gedajlovic, E., Neubaum, D. O., & Shulman, J. M. (2009). A typology of social entrepreneurs: Motives, search processes and ethical challenges. Journal of Business Venturing, 24(5), 519–532.

3. Information and knowledge in a circular economy: how meaningful social media communication shapes sustainable business models (Track 3)
Track Chairs: Deike Schulz and Niels Faber

In 2019 we organised a session focusing on meaningful content (Schulz, 2018), and sustainable business models for the first time as a new and a bit ‘unfamiliar’ topic to the conference program.
This session addressed meaningful content, dialogue and commitment (Schulz, van der Woud, & Westhof, 2020) as a central element in developing and shaping sustainable business models.

This track is suspended.

4.  Circular Business models ( for a circular economy )(Track 4)
Track chairs: Niels Faber, Jan Jonker, Abhishek Agarwal

The Circular Economy (CE) is one of the promising perspectives that might offer innovative and radical solutions at the system level to tackle wicked and pressing problems associated with our current, linear economy. Business models based on linear thinking are based on a pattern of extraction of resources, production and use of goods creating side and end of life effects seen as negative externalities such as waste, pollution or social exclusion. This linear economic concept is inadequate to address increasingly complex societal challenges. Radical changes are needed. Therefore, there is a need to conceptualise notions such as value preservation, restoration, and revitalisation into a new generation of business models.
These are based on organising closed and extended loops, driven by principles such as design for circularity, decomposability, minimum and extended use of resources and strategies to optimise the use of the functionality. We explicitly add to this exclusive material-oriented view the need to incorporate social inclusiveness. Shaping a circular economy is not just an adjustment of the current economic fabric by using less and better commodities but entails a large-scale overhaul of the economy and society at large. The transition to a circular economy requires a rethinking of supply chains into value cycles, forming the building blocks of a system transition.

In this track, which is the fifth in a row after NBM@Toulouse (2016), NBM@Graz (2017), NBM@Sofia (2018), and NBM@Berlin (2019), once more we would like to explore the consequences of the circular economy thinking on business models for the future. In particular, we focus on three interrelated subjects, namely:
–  organising closed and extended loops (proposing a coherent typology),
–  strategies that enhance the use of functionality (moving beyond Product As A Service (PAAS) and related concepts) and
–  promoting social inclusiveness, and the implications for societal, economic and institutional configurations.
In addition, we welcome contributions that provide a perspective on research regarding the circular economy in the years to come.

5. Aligning elements of circular business models (Track 5) 
Track chairs: Harold Krikke and Wim Lambrechts

A business model, in general, comprises three main components: value proposition; value creation/delivery; and value capture. The first component considers customer values, segmentation, relations and branding, the second delivery channels, resources and key activities, and the final component is about cost structures and revenues (the bottom line).

This track is suspended, the papers are presented in track 4.

6. New business models and societal interactions (Track 6) 
Track chairs: Manon Eikelenboom, Thomas Long, Gjalt de Jong

Sustainable business models generate benefits beyond their organisational boundaries and are essential for the transition toward a more sustainable society. However, sustainable business models can achieve impact only when they involve multiple stakeholders in a transdisciplinary setting (Schaltegger et al. 2016). The involvement of societal stakeholders within this setting assists businesses in considering social and ethical dimensions during the design and operations of new business models leading to (1) increased success, (2) the ability to address complex social challenges, (3) increased inclusivity and (4) profound system-level transitions (e.g. Hassan, 2014). For instance, circular business model research has highlighted the need for interactions with communities and society as a whole, as these models often require changes in social behaviour in order to be successful (Geissdoerfer et al. 2017). Establishing societal interactions may be complicated and costly, however if new business models ignore this complexity, they may end up missing critical societal elements leading to (1) higher costs in later stages, (2) unintended and/or irresponsible outcomes, and (3) business models that are not accepted nor desired by society.
The need for increased societal interaction and inclusion has resulted in new approaches, such as citizens’ juries, deliberative mapping, living labs, cooperatives, and citizen innovation spaces. Despite the increased attention towards societal interaction, little is known about how these initiatives can be included in the development and operations of new businesses models, what their impacts will be, and how new business models can deal with differences in societal interests. This track aims to attract scholars wishing to present and discuss their research on new business models and societal interactions. We welcome papers from different methodological backgrounds that can address one or more of the following, or similar topics:
– How can societal interactions be included within the development and operations of new business models?
–  What role can societal interactions play in inspiring and or informing new business models?
– What type of frameworks and theories can help in understanding how societal interactions and perspectives can be included in the development and operations of new business models?
– How can we organise societal interactions in the development and operations of new business models in a responsible way?
– How can new business models deal with and integrate the different interests of societal stakeholders?
– Which best practices in new business models, in terms of interactions with and the involvement of societal stakeholders, do we currently see across different contexts, including countries, industries and regions?
– What are the impacts, including social, ecological and economic impacts, of societal interactions in the development and operations of new business models?
– In what ways can the integration of societal perspectives be linked to enhanced business model success or failure? What are the costs and or benefits?
– How do societal interactions in new business models reconceptualise the role of business in society?

Geissdoerfer, M., Savaget, P. Bocken, N.M.P. & Hultink, E.J. 2017. The circular economy – a new sustainability paradigm? Journal of Cleaner Production 143: 757-768.
Hassan, Z. 2014. The Social Labs Revolution: a new approach to solving our most complex challenges. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Schaltegger, S., Hansen, E. & Lüdeke-Freund, F. 2016. Business Models for Sustainability: Origins,

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