Research at the Civil Society Center | CiSoC

Ongoing Research Projects

Research Unit: Innovation Systems of Charity Organizations (FIWo)

The research project "Innovation Systems of Charity Organizations" (initiated by Zeppelin University in Friedrichshafen and the diocese Rottenburg-Stuttgart) addresses the academic question of the civil-society role of non-profit organizations - a role that has to be described as post-modern - especially that of denominational organizations that are part of the non-statutory welfare organizations in the federal republic of Germany.

The complex developments of the social state since the 1990s show that the affected organizations, as (1) partners of a corporately organized social system, as (2) stakeholders of the denominational social sector, and as (3) the institutionalized part of the mission of the churches, can no longer be suitably seen as the only major providers of professional social services.
On the basis of the observable hybridization tendencies, the research project focuses on the operating modes of traditional associations as players in creating solidarity "in", "with", and "for" civil society. To what extent charity associations - simply from a historic context - are again becoming operationalizing tools and media of political communication in today´s socio-economic and socio-political reality, or whether they can be useful as a corrective of the state and market failures of a civil society that is getting stronger: These are concerns that seriously question or sustainably secure the sense and continuity of the association in a "Spitzenverband". It is in this sense that innovation systems of those charity organizations have to be analyzed that can be seen as supra-additive elements of association work between the poles of new orientation and return, parallel with the forward movement of post-modern civil societies.

International Research Network on Social Economic Empowerment | IRENE SEE

Interdisciplinary placement of social entrepreneurship in selected countries in Africa and Latin America


The research network IRENE | SEE is sponsored by the Siemens Foundation and coordinated by Zeppelin University. The international orientation can be seen in the cooperations with partner universities in Ethiopia (Adama University), Mexico (EGADE Business School), Columbia (Universidad de los Andes), and South Africa (University of Stellenbosch Business School).
The project is coordinated in regular meetings, as well as in virtual conferences coordinated by Zeppelin University. Annual reports and conferences towards the end of the program additionally serve as monitoring, evaluation, as well as communication of the network and its research results.


Originally planned for four years, the research network analyzes the feasibility, benefits, limitations, and long-term effects of social economic empowerment (SEE) in selected countries in Africa and Latin America. Social economic empowerment is seen as the process of economic empowerment by means of professional support. A special focus is on "entrepreneurial solutions to social problems" that have lately been discussed as the new hope, especially in the context of the often criticized traditional development cooperation.

The research does not only comprise theoretical studies, but also the collection and evaluation of primary data in Columbia, Mexico, Ethiopia, and South Africa through six locally rooted doctoral theses. The focus of the project is on the consideration of the heterogeneousness, the differences, and the similarities between the different countries. The research results are thus the basis to develop and promote projects that do not only consider the specific regional, cultural, economic, and political characteristics, but that are also sustainable.

Completed Research Projects

Study for the KfW Bank Group on Financing Social Enterprises

On behalf of the KfW Bank Group, a study on financing social enterprises was carried out between December 2012 and March 2013. After describing the financing options and the financing environment available to social enterprises, the financing problems and possible solutions were outlined.

The KfW is a corporation established under public law and with a balance sheet of EUR 511.6 bn the world´s largest national development bank.

Ex ante evaluation for the European Commission on the topic "Imperfections in the social investment market and options on how to address them"
On behalf of the European Commission (Directorate General “Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities”), a study on the social capital market and possible political actions was conducted between March and October 2013. After an analysis of the European capital market and the difficulties of financing, possible actions to develop a European funding program were discussed. The focus was on providing investments, guarantees, and donations to promote the social capital market in Europe.

The Directorate General Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities coordinates European employment and social policy and takes the respective measures.

Mercator Research Network Social Entrepreneurship (MEFOSE)

The organization, communication, financing, and markets of social enterprises from the perspectives of emergence, legitimacy, and governance.

The project dealt with the entrepreneurial aspects of social issues. Selected topics included the circumstances of originating, organizational specifics, growth challenges, and financing structures of social enterprises. The research was carried out both theoretically and empirically by means of semi-structured interviews and questionnaires. The results of the project can be found in this anthology.

The research network was funded by the Mercator Foundation and coordinated by the Civil Society Center. Further project partners were the Center for Social Investments and Innovation (CSI) of Heidelberg University and the Center for Entrepreneurial and Financial Studies (CEFS) at the Technical University Munich. Practical partners were Ashoka Germany and the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship.

The whole project was embedded into the research association "Innovative Social Action - Social Entrepreneurship" together with the Universities of Bochum, Greifswald, Jacobs, and Leuphana, as well as the Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IÖW) in Berlin.


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