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Value Co-creation | An indispensable tool in Social Entrepreneurship Tool Box

The purpose of this paper is to build the case for value co-creation as a critical resource for the viability of social entrepreneurship, a viable tool for sustainable development. 2030 UN  development goals recommend value-creation as a vital tool for advancing sustainable development. (Bonsu et al., 2020). This scholar would like to define value co-creation as a collaborative process between the producers of services and the recipient integrated into social entrepreneurship in designing and executing development programs. Value co-creation is a process that involves a deliberate involvement of multiple stakeholders, especially the community, that receives the benefits of the enterprise (Banerjee, Murphy, & Patrick, 2020).  In this way, the community becomes part of the solution that may meet their needs and solutions based on their cultural platform and are more easily adapted and sustained (Verborg, 2015). Co-creation is significant due to the dynamics of engagement and commitment to long-term adaptability (Ge et al., 2019a). For this reason, value co-creation presents a critical link for sustainable development, particularly within the context of social entrepreneurship, a high-level tool for sustainable development  ((Banerjee et al., 2020; Ge et al., 2019). 

Research question: Is Value Co-creation an indispensable tool in Social Entrepreneurship Tool Box?

Introduction

Sustainability has become a key goal for development programs (Bonsu et al., 2020).  This is particularly true for developing countries, many of which depend on foreign aid to subsidize their budget or solve social issues like healthcare, education, and infrastructural development. This is the case with countries like Sierra Leone who receives a considerable amount of foreign aid and lacks policies, systems, and structures for sustainable economic growth (Dumbuya & Nirupama, 2017). Many development programs are misguided due to inefficient strategies, lack of multiple perspectives, and, importantly, the lack of effective partnership with critical stakeholders. Many enterprises have a selfish orientation and believe going alone is the best strategy to protect themselves (Nadeem et al., 2021). Effective collaboration with critical stakeholders brings in fresh thoughts, innovative ideas, and opportunities.  (value co-creation refers to the “Active involvement of the consumer or recipient of the services in the process of producing goods and services.  In this process, there is a crucial emphasis on the active involvement of the beneficiaries to the extent that there is an element of collective ownership in the outcomes and processes  (Kohtamäki, &  Rajala, 2016). Co-creation is linked to the open creation of value or products and services. This is the process of engaging external resources (people and ideas) to create value through collaborative activities.  Co-creation is a paradigm shift that takes away the costly research and development processes from regular paid employees in developing products and finding solutions to organizational issues (Kruger et al., 2018). 

Roel of Social Entrepsnuship in Sustainable Development 

The term "social entrepreneurship" refers to a combination of the terms "social" and "business." It is a step forward from traditional nonprofits. The urge for social entrepreneurship is fueled by the limits of private, nonprofit, and public institutions. Social entrepreneurship aims to address traditional firms' inefficiencies, particularly in areas of economic injustice (Aquino et al., 2018). An "enabling environment" is proposed as a way to close the gap between the haves and the have-nots. Its goal is to form a strategic business, non-profit, and government collaborations (Persaud & Bayon, 2019).

Because social entrepreneurship thrives on creativity, culture, and various stakeholder engagement, especially in harnessing resources that are generally beyond the reach of the firm, co-creation is a necessary tool (Ehlen et al., 2017; Nadeem et al., 2021). Due to its major focus on social effects, social entrepreneurship is frequently affiliated with a nonprofit organization. Nonprofit organizations are formed to fill in the gaps in solutions for the common good as complements to public and private firms working toward development goals (Valentinov et al., 2015). Many nonprofit groups are making a difference in underprivileged communities by taking a global perspective. Individual donations and foundation grants are the primary sources of funding for nonprofit organizations. As community problems become more complicated and more nonprofit organizations develop, funding from this traditional source becomes increasingly competitive, owing to higher performance standards and a large number of institutions competing for the same resources. Furthermore, failing to satisfy strict sustainability and community impact goals can result in nonprofit organizations losing financing (Rüsch, Wilkesmann, & Bastini, 2019a).

As a driver for sustainable development, social entrepreneurship leverages the strengths of the other sectors (for-profit, nonprofit government), recognizes the gaps, and builds a system for an encompassing model that creates an enduring social impact. This occurs by reconciling cultural frameworks (Piltch et al., 2020; Wood & Dibben, 2015) continuous innovation  (Wood & Dibben, 2015; Ziegler, 2017); and multiple stakeholder value co-creation (Ge et al., 2019b; Jenner & Fleischman, 2017; Wood & Dibben, 2015; Ziegler, 2017).  

Leadership in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors must contend with a multi-stakeholder ecosystem. Please wait while the formatting is completed. Nonprofits, on the other hand, are more likely to have a larger stakeholder eco-system as a result of their mission for social good and the development of a supportive network to carry out their mission and meet significantly more critical demands and executions. The nonprofit purpose necessitates a high level of collaboration among the communities it serves, foundations, funders, and other nonprofit organizations, as well as its service constituencies (Natsvlishvili, 2018).

Social Entrepreneurship is recognized to be an essential tool in sustainable development. Critical to the survival of social entrepreneurship is the acquisition of resources from multiple stakeholder eco-system. The opportunities to leverage from such opportunities are crucial to the social enterprises’ sustainability. Value co-creation is a vital element of this tool. It serves as the thread that sews resources from stakeholders together to provide an enabling environment for sustainable development through social entrepreneurship. However, the potential of value co-creation as a critical toolbox in social entrepreneurship can only be possible through effective leadership, taking a system, and multiple perspective mindsets (Alexy et al., 2018; Bhattacharyya, 2006; Wilson et al., 2020).  The value co-creation phenomenon enhances the emergence of social entrepreneurship as a viable tool in sustainable development. This is due to the many resource limitations of the traditional nonprofit organizations in solving social problems such as limited access to healthcare, education, food security, and dealing with the ills of environmental degradation (Sekliuckiene & Kisielius, 2015)

Value – Co-creation 

However, for social entrepreneurship to thrive, it depends heavily on the resources of stakeholder networks and its capacity to leverage these networks to social operations. The social entrepreneurship entity will collaborate and co-create economic activities that meet the needs of its people in more sustainable ways. This is done by effectively leveraging from its network to co-create actions that lead to high-impact outcomes   (Banerjee, Murphy, & Walsh, 2020; Ge et al., 2019; Jenner & Fleischman, 2017; Morgane Le Pennec & Raufflet, 2018; Persaud & Bayon, 2019).

The role of value creation is becoming more and more apparent, especially in enabling multiple sustainable development models, such as social entrepreneurship.  Previous research has been limited in scope. Most of the study focuses more on conceptual frameworks and is not fully developed in contextualized frameworks around development entities such as social entrepreneurship. Emphasis and integration of value co-creation through strategic partnership and resource exchanges can scale up and expand social impact. The concept of value creation is from marketing literature. Building upon marketing and business ethics literature as value creation platforms provides a multidimensional approach to accessing resources and having consumers be part of what is produced, making their needs and expectations. As social entrepreneurship thrives better on innovation, culture, and multiples stakeholder collaboration, especially in lovage resources typically beyond the reach of the enterprise, it is conceivable to state that co-creation is an indispensable tool (Nadeem et al., 2021). 

Critical stakeholders include those who provide resource input and those who directly benefit from the services, such as the local communities (Banerjee et al., 2020; Bonsu et al., 2020).  The lack of effective stakeholder engagement and collaboration, especially those who provided strategic support with resources and those who benefit from the services, may result in solutions that may not be fully aligned with the felt needs of the beneficiaries and may also deprive the enterprise with needed resources for sustainable development activities (Bonsu et al., 2020; Pret & Carter, 2017). 

Value creation is an emerging phenomenon used by nonprofits and for-profit to leverage the talents and resources outside the organization.  Co-creation provides the opportunity to save money through expensive research and development departments (Frow et al., 2015a). The purpose of Co-creation is “to design collaborative new products, services, and processes in contact with users has become more and more important because organizations increasingly require multidisciplinary collaboration inside and outside the organization to respond to challenges and create added value”  (Ehlen et al., 2017).

The outcomes of co-creation increase the potential for sustainable development as both the user and the producers join hands in creating what is desired and needed, meeting the expectation of the sellers and the benefits in an adaptable and sustainable way. Issues of creativity and innovation are now being done by collaborating with consumers in the process of initiating and developing new products and services (Agrawal et al., 2015). Describing the areas in which an organization can create value as the “zone of value.” Overall, social entrepreneurship as a tool for sustainability requires intensive community involvement in the entire process of co-creating new solutions to problems confronting them (Hossain, Saleh, & Drennan, 2017). It is the process of working with a network of stakeholders, including those who benefit from the services. This is what makes value co-creation a vital tool in the toolbox of social entrepreneurship. Co-creation is essential for utilizing the relationships of external stakeholders to meet the enterprise's resource demands (Agrawal et al., 2015). 

Value co-creation is a driving force behind social entrepreneurship's ability to acquire resources and make a difference. Value co-creation is a tried and true tool in today's marketing strategy. It's also becoming more well-known as a feasible strategy for ensuring the long-term viability of social enterprises. For a social enterprise, value co-creation ensures its long-term viability. The enterprise and the community both profit from value co-creation. As a result, each partner has a vested interest in the company's long-term viability. As a result, the connection. There are several paradigms for leveraging the benefits of co-creation. (Prahalad and Ramaswamy) present one of these frameworks (Agrawal et al., 2015).

By engaging in procedures that allow these viewpoints, commitment and adaptive capacity, and cultural frameworks, co-creation ensures that the beneficiary and stakeholder work together to co-create solutions that address the actual needs of its people. Stakeholders such as private, public, community organizations, local and international NGOs will contribute resources and ideas for increased sustainability capability by successfully organizing value co-creation. When this happens, there is a stronger alignment on problem-solving mechanics, shared goals, dedication, and adaptation for sustainability (Fernandes & Remelhe, 2016; Frow et al., 2015b).

Value co-creation is a critical link to advancing the possibilities for sustainability using the social entrepreneurship bridge. The single approach to sustainable development activities tends to miss the most significant opportunity to co-create solutions using and managing the stakeholder ecosystem. This lack of sustainability can also be attributed to the absence of an enterprise model with an inbuilt sustainable framework for its operations. Very often, there is a lack of sustainable practices in the enterprise. This is a common occurrence with traditional nonprofits. Nonprofit models, unlike social entrepreneurship models, are often not self-sustaining because they rely heavily on traditional funding sources such as individual donors and foundations (Rüsch, Wilkesmann, & Bastini, 2019c). Traditional NGOs are deprived of prospects for breakthrough ideas due to a lack of motivation for ongoing innovation. This approach improves the enterprise's long-term viability while also increasing social impact through new solutions. This is also true when local culture is not broken in innovation processes (Pienaar & Nel, 2017), and when strong stakeholder alliances are developed and projects are co-created with the community that benefits from them (Walters & Takamura, 2015).

Leadership for Value Co-creation 

The credit given to value-creation as a viable tool for the success of social entrepreneurship is the leadership’s ability to integrate community resources through strong stakeholder relationships. Social entrepreneurship literature primarily focuses on the integration of resources to the enterprise by effective interaction with stakeholders. The role of leadership in value co-creation includes establishing a co-creation mindset, determining among different approaches to the co-creation process, and managing the risk involved in co-creation (Petri & Jacob, 2016). 

The leadership role is to create the environment for discovering “value” in deliberately focusing its activities around these areas (Ramaswamy 2009; (Ramaswamy & Ozcan, 2018). There is a possibility of creating the kind of products and services both desirable and acceptable. This constitutes building interaction with consumers’ co-creating results. The engagement in value co-creation should lead to a point where both the consumers and the producers realize similar interests and outcomes.  In other words, the service providers are co-creators of the community that benefits.  Value is not only about the end goal but also about the process of engagement. In the end, the customers value what they receive and value becoming part of it. This is only possible through effective leadership (Petri & Jacob, 2016).    

Co-creation can be practiced under multiple methodologies, each having specific strategies of processes that may include appreciative inquiry.  This process-based approach provides discovery, dreams, planning, and future visionary of accomplishment. Design Thinking is a thinking process that involves the experience of a user. It takes a three steps approach, Inspiration  -,motivation for solutions, Direction  - brainstorming, generalization, and testing of ideas, Implementation  - development of a business model, and testing (Morgane Le Pennec & Raufflet, 2018).

For that purpose, it is essential that leadership can navigate the process of integration. There are various frameworks to leverage co-creation benefits (Agrawal et al., 2015). The focus of this framework is to leverage stakeholder capability through an understanding of how they contribute to the enterprise. The process includes dialogue, access, risk assessment, and transparency (DART). The exchange allows the enterprise and the stakeholders to understand the resource needs for the enterprise better. It is also essential for the stakeholder to access information on the enterprise’s activities to promote an inclusive environment. The interaction through access to information creates value for the enterprise. Hence, mutual benefits. The collaboration between the enterprise and its stakeholders contains risk. The perception of risks is different between the enterprise and the stakeholders. Stakeholders need to be fully aware of the risks involved, which is also the responsibility of leadership (Cheung & To, 2021). 

Transparency requires information sharing between the enterprise and the stakeholders, leading to the building of trust (Agrawal et al., 2015). Such confidence is significant in value co-creation and the overall goals of sustaining the enterprise. Once the DART principles are implemented, the possibilities of creating value through the collaborative and adaptive process of the enterprise and the consumer, and the community increase social impact immensely  (Ramaswamy; 2008; (Polese et al., 2017) Leadership should also develop a mechanism for effective collaboration and create the capacity to implement value activities across the organization. The foundation of value creation is integrating the process into the organizational core strategy. The process involves mapping value activities around the relationship and group interaction on natural dynamics  (Ramaswamy & Ozcan, 2018). 

According to Deck (2006), leadership provides a suitable co-creation climate, innovation, and tactics that lower costs. Furthermore, leadership in co-creation also includes establishing a platform and an empowering structure that enables members to create value.  It is also a requirement for leadership to be transparent and trustful to develop a robust co-creational base. For that purpose, it is essential that leadership can navigate the process for such integration and create an enabling environment for value co-creation (Atiase et al., 2020; Frow et al., 2015b). 

Conclusion

Value co-creation presents a tremendous potential in driving social entrepreneurship, especially as a tool for sustainable impact. Social entrepreneurship enterprises should seek to leverage external opportunities such as their networks.  The capacity needed for social entrepreneurship includes leadership and networks. The success of social entrepreneurship relies heavily on these (Fernandes & Remelhe, 2016). Poor stakeholder management deprives the enterprise of guidance for successful program implementation and sustainability.  Failure to fully engage the community and integrate local cultural frameworks would further deny the benefit and opportunities to leverage innovative ideas from the community, buy-ins, and, very importantly, adapt to new development paradigms that will lead to sustainability. Essentially, development initiatives tend to omit a critical “missing link” to creating sustainability – this missing link is ‘co-creation” ( (Fernandes & Remelhe, 2016; Polese et al., 2017; Pret & Carter, 2017).  

It takes a lot of effort for social entrepreneurship to build a network of stakeholders. Strong leadership is required. Leadership should create an environment in which the social entrepreneurship organizations may work with a variety of stakeholders, including those who receive services, to develop long-term solutions to social problems. Leadership should develop a cohesive vision, dedication, and a stronger opportunity for new sustainability solutions. These are possible responses to the community's perceived needs. This technique fosters a sense of belonging, satisfaction, and fulfillment of purpose, all of which have a long-term impact. Stakeholder management, resource leveraging, and resource deployment within cultural frameworks all help to boost long-term development potential. Value co-creation is an important instrument in the social entrepreneurship efforts for building stakeholder networks and cultural reconciliation, which leads to commitment and adaptation to long-term solutions. The concept of value creation that satisfies community needs, as well as its implementation, has provided more innovative platforms for not just consumer needs but also skill development. This is particularly true of Africa as they intensify efforts on technology and entrepreneurial hubs (Atiase et al., 2020).

Author: Alfred B. Sesay

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Studies from Department of Public Administration Add New Findings in the Area of Third-Sector Research (Understanding the Role of Nonprofit Organizations In the Provision of Social Services In China: an Exploratory Study) (2021). . NewsRX LLC.

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