Digital social entrepreneurship: the N-Helix response to stakeholders' COVID-19 needs

J Technol Transf. 2022;47(2):556-579. doi: 10.1007/s10961-021-09855-4. Epub 2021 Mar 30.


This study explores the emergence of a new entrepreneurship phenomenon (digital social entrepreneurship) as a result of the collaboration among many agents (N-Helix), given the government's limited capacity to respond to the stakeholders' needs satisfaction related to an exogenous event (e.g., the COVID-19 pandemic). Our theory development is based on three ongoing academic debates related to (a) the unrepresentativeness of the stakeholder theory in entrepreneurship research; (b) the emergence of digital social entrepreneurship (DSE) as a bridge between stakeholders' needs, socio-economic actors, and digital-social initiatives; and (c) the role of N-Helix collaborations to facilitate the emergence of global knowledge-intensive initiatives and the rapid adoptions of open innovations. Our results support our assumptions about the positive mediation effect of DSE in the relationship between N-Helix collaborations and stakeholders' satisfaction. Notably, results show how pandemic has intensified these relationships and how DSE in N-Helix collaborations can generate social impacts globally. Some implications for policy-makers have emerged from our results that should be considered during/post-COVID-19 pandemic.

Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic; Digital social entrepreneurship; Knowledge transfer; N-Helix collaboration; Stakeholders theory; Technology transfer.