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The Dumfries Arts Award Project: towards building a programme theory of innovation transfer across two social organisations

Sandy Whitelaw (School of Interdisciplinary Studies, Dumfries Campus, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK)
Isla Gibson (School of Interdisciplinary Studies, Dumfries Campus, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK)
Annie Wild (School of Interdisciplinary Studies, Dumfries Campus, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK)
Heather Hall (The Usual Place, Dumfries, UK)
Heather Molloy (Dumfries Theatre Royal, Dumfries, UK)

Social Enterprise Journal

ISSN: 1750-8614

Article publication date: 14 January 2021

Issue publication date: 4 August 2021

104

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to critically understand a programme theory of the “transfer” of work in one social organisation and sector (an innovative and successful social enterprise community café, The Usual Place that seeks to enhance the employability of young people with additional support needs in “hospitality”) to another (Dumfries Theatre Royal, a regional theatre and registered charity, specifically the “Dumfries Arts Award Project” and more generally, “the arts”).

Design/methodology/approach

By means of gaining insight into the complexity of the transfer of innovative practices between two socially oriented organisations and theoretical insights into associated conducive contexts and optimal processes, the work used realist evaluation resources within a longitudinal ethnographic approach. Within this, a series of specific methods were deployed, including semi structured key stakeholder interviews, non-participant observation and “walking” and “paired” interviews with service users in each organisation.

Findings

The principle finding is that with attention being paid to the context and intervention processes associated with transfer processes and having sufficient capacity and strong partnership working, it is possible to take an innovative idea from one context, transfer it to another setting and have relatively immediate “success” in terms of achieving a degree of sustainability. The authors propose a provisional programme theory that illuminates this transfer. They were also able to show that, whilst working with the potentially conservative concept of “employability”; both organisations were able to maintain a progressive ethos associated with social innovation.

Originality/value

The work offers theoretical and methodological originality. The significance of “scaling up” social innovation is recognised as under-researched and under-theorised and the use of a realistic evaluation approach and the associated development of provisional programme theory address this.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the European Social Fund/Scottish Government’s ‘Social Innovation Fund’ (SIF) and The Holywood Trust, Dumfries for funding the work on which this paper is based.

Citation

Whitelaw, S., Gibson, I., Wild, A., Hall, H. and Molloy, H. (2021), "The Dumfries Arts Award Project: towards building a programme theory of innovation transfer across two social organisations", Social Enterprise Journal, Vol. 17 No. 2, pp. 183-202. https://doi.org/10.1108/SEJ-11-2019-0081

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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