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Social Entrepreneurship in the Water Sector – Getting things done sustainably

There are few sectors where ‘getting things done sustainably’ is as important as it is for the water sector. From drinking water and sanitation to water use in agriculture, industry, and ecosystems, Rafael Ziegler and his co-authors investigate the contribution of social entrepreneurship to the sustainable use of water. In doing so, they critically discuss the ethics and politics of new innovations, with the emphasis on ideas changing heads rather than money changing hands.

By bringing together questions from ecology, ethics, management, and political science and drawing on research in close collaboration with practitioners across the world, the approach taken is both inter- and trans-disciplinary. The result will be of significant interest to researchers and practitioners in social entrepreneurship and social innovation, as well as in water and sustainability politics.

Ziegler, Rafael; Partzsch,  Lena; Gebauer,  Jana; Henkel,  Marianne; Lodemann,  Justus; Mohaupt,  Franziska (Paperback 2016, Hardcover 2014): Social Entrepreneurship In The Water Sector. Getting Things Done Sustainably, Cheltenham. (Online: unter)


Critical acclaim:

''This book makes a breakthrough. Yes, there are almost no other sectors where “getting things done sustainably” is as important as it is for the water sector. Let us work together to sustain blue gold and blue Earth.’
-International Journal of Information Systems and Social Change

 ‘Inspiration for water professionals and social entrepreneurs. Amidst the rapidly expanding body of research on water policy, on one hand, and social entrepreneurship on the other, this book offers badly needed inspiration to both.  To water development professionals, the inspiration is about process and method:  There is an alternative to bureaucratic state-sponsored development initiatives; progress can come through unexpected, creative initiatives from dynamic individuals.  To the cheerleaders and investors of social entrepreneurship, the message is about environmental sustainability:  The viability of Nature, and specifically water ecosystems, is a fundamental social priority as well as an environmental one.’ GAIA – Ecological Perspectives for Science and Society

‘So often environmental protection is neglected in the social entrepreneurship literature, even though the environmental movement has a lot to offer in terms of empirical and theoretical developments. This book makes a hugely important contribution to filling that gap, lending weight to social innovation theory and providing a good case-study resource. The book bridges the gap between social and environmental outcomes.’ (Tim Curtis, The University of Northampton, UK)





Following Gandhi: Social Entrepreneurship as a Non-Violent Way of Communicating Sustainability Challenges

In the context of the Rio Earth Summit numerous international regimes, national policies and organizational guidelines have appeared that help translate the normative demands of sustainable development into political reality. The implementation of these instruments, however, often runs into difficulties or fails entirely. An example is the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), a progressive approach for the conservation of freshwater that is very unlikely to be implemented by 2015, the target year. We examine in this paper how a recent variation of Gandhian non-violent communication within social entrepreneurship suggests one way to deal with this challenge. Non-violent communication, rooted in Gandhian social action, has long been part of environmental politics. It has undergone a new variation as a mode of communication in the hands of social entrepreneurship initiatives that address urgent social and environmental issues with new, practical ideas. In the conceptual part of this paper, we outline our approach to sustainability, non-violent communication and social entrepreneurship. In a further part, we present data from a trans-disciplinary experiment to illustrate and critically discuss social entrepreneurship as a mode of sustainability communication. The experiment looked at, which is based on French social entrepreneur Roberto Epple’s idea of a Big Jump, is a collaborative campaign that invites young people to take action for water conservation in the context of the WFD.

Ziegler, Rafael; Schulz, Sabrina; Richter, Lukas; Schreck, Martin (2014): Following Gandhi. Social Entrepreneurship as a Non-Violent Way of Communicating Sustainability Challenges. In: Sustainability. Download


Philanthropy: Power with in International Relations.

Philanthropy: power with in international relations

In international relations, a long list of private donors has joined governments in addressing global problems and their financial contributions are mind-boggling. We argue that the transformational potential of philanthropists such as Bill and Melinda Gates and Michael Otto relies largely on mechanisms of power with others, i.e. cooperation and learning. There are situations in which power is neither attributed solely to A nor to B, but to both. Comparing the cases of Gates and Otto, however, we simultaneously emphasize that power with is not exercised independently from power over dimensions. If we simply assume philanthropists to be do-gooders, we may become inattentive to often hidden or invisible conflicts of interests and values.

Partzsch, Lena; Fuchs, Doris (2012): Philanthropy: Power with in International Relations. In: Journal of Political Power 5 (3), S. 359-376 (Download:



Wasserethik - eine Übersicht. Greifswald Environmental Ethics Papers, No.3

Wasser ist für Menschen Lebensmittel und grundlegende Metapher. Beispielsweise
findet sich in der europäischen Philosophietradition die dem Vorsokratiker Thales
von Milet zugeschriebene These, dass Wasser das Prinzip oder der Ursprung aller
Dinge sei. Trotz der frühen und zentralen Rolle von Wasser hat sich bisher eine
Wasserethik im Sinne eines Teilbereichs der angewandten Ethik nicht etablieren
können. Neuere Arbeiten im Rahmen des UNESCO-COMEST Programms sowie die
Veröffentlichung von Sammelbänden zu Wasserethik legen allerdings zumindest ein
zunehmendes Interesse an Wasserethik nahe. Dazu möchte diese Arbeit in Form
eines Literaturüberblicks beitragen. Dabei liegt der Fokus auf menschlichem Handeln
in Bezug auf Süßwasser. Im Sinne einer Heuristik wird dieser Süßwasserbezug
wiederum mit Blick auf verschiedene Handlungsgebiete strukturiert: das Management
von Flusseinzugsgebieten, die Nutzung von Wasser für Landwirtschaft und
Industrie, sowie die Trink- und Süßwassernutzung. Die Arbeit formuliert abschließend
Desiderate für die im Entstehen begriffene Wasserethik.

Ziegler,Rafael; Kerschbaumer, Lilin (2012): Wasserethik - eine Übersicht.Greifswald Environmental Ethics Papers ,No. 3, Dezember 2012. Download


Toilet Monuments: an investigation of innovation for human development


Drawing on a recognized social innovation in sanitation — the ikotoilets of Kenya’s Ecotact — the article makes a threefold argument. Firstly, indirect conversion factors are an important element in the success or failure of an innovation. In our sanitation case study, these factors help to explain why the public toilets in urban centres are a success story and those in the slums a story of difficulty. Secondly, not to take into account direct and indirect conversion factors is to commit explanatory commodity fetishism. Goods are taken as given. However, they are the product of human design, including options for capability impact, and this accordingly needs to be taken into account. Thirdly, applying the capabilities approach to innovation suggests that it is fruitful to distinguish analytically two different scaling strategies regarding the replication of capability innovations, which the article calls ‘the lab’ and ‘the family’ strategies.

Ziegler, Rafael; Karanja, Benson; Dietsche, Christian: Toilet Monuments: an investigation of innovation for human development. Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, S. 1–21. DOI: 10.1080/19452829.2012.693070   Download






Wasser und Klima. Big Jump für den blauen Planeten.

Partzsch, Lena (2012): Wasser und Klima - Big Jump für den blauen Planeten. In: UNICEF (Hg.): Mein Recht auf Wasser. Deutsche Erstausg. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch (UNICEF Report 2012), S. 77-87.













Capability Innovation and the (Re)making of Social Order. Gram Vikas and Social Agreement


Befähigungen (Capabilities) sind, so eine These des Ökonomen und Philosophen Amartya Sen, Zweck und Mittel von Entwicklung. Der Artikel verfeinert die These mit Blick auf politische Teilhabe und untersucht sie dann anhand einer Fallstudie zur Sanitärversorgung im ländlichen Raum in Indien.

Ziegler, Rafael (2012): Capability Innovation and the (Re)making of Social Order. Gram Vikas and Social Agreement. In: Hawa, Bilal; Hölzchen, Yanti Martina; Weidtmann, Niels (Hg.): The capability approach on social order. LIT Verlag, Münster, S. 232-251









Social Entrepreneurs as Change Agents - A Case Study on Power and Authority in the Water Sector


international environmental agreements_coverIn view of urgent social and environmental problems, it is important to understand the political dynamics that may promote sustainable development and to identify the agents that make changes in this direction happen. We examine the role and authority of a new type of actor that has recently emerged on the global stage—the social entrepreneur, who tackles social and ecological problems with entrepreneurial means. We consider them as agents that perform functions and provide services that have been considered to be the sole authority of states. For instance, the provision of water services has long been considered an exclusive task of the state. The water sector therefore serves as a good example to explore how these agents come up with their own missions and political agendas.

Partzsch, Lena; Ziegler, Rafael (2011): Social Entrepreneurs as Change Agents. A Case Study on Power and Authority the Water Sector. In: International Environmental Agreements: Politics Law and Economics 11 (1), S. 63–83. Volltext (PDF)






The Idea of a Collaborative Competition –  a case study

cover futures

This paper examines the idea of an online collaborative competition for solutions to environmental and social problems. It asks three basic questions: What is a collaborative competition? In what sense are collaborative competitions collaborative? And in view of the social and environmental goals of the competitions, are they a contribution to sustainability practice? Prepared by a conceptual analysis, partly drawing on the arguments for extended peer review in post-normal science, and based on the in-depth analysis of one collaborative competition, it is argued that the idea of a collaborative competition is innovative and suggestive; however, in practice there is only weak evidence for collaboration – the competitive element clearly prevails. The innovation, in practice, is a new way of making visible and thereby promoting social and environmental ideas.

Ziegler, Rafael; Hamker, Nando (2011): The Idea of a Collaborative Competition - a case study. In: Futures (43), S. 441–449. Volltext (PDF)




The New Water Paradigm, Human Capabilities and Strong Sustainability


cover_international journal of water


The ethical power of the New Water Paradigm (NWP) is assessed using a capabilities approach and theory of strong sustainability. The concepts of strong vs. weak sustainability, natural capital, and ecosystem services are explained, and the Old Water Paradigm (OWP) is contrasted with ecological claims at the core of the NWP. The analysis suggests that the NWP should enhance the capacity of ecosystems to cope with stress, a key objective of sustainability; and it should promote social goals associated with strong sustainability by meeting basic capabilities. Nevertheless, effective implementation of sustainability using the NWP will depend upon political commitment and social participation.

Lodemann, Justus; Ziegler, Rafael; Varga, Pavol (2010): The New Water Paradigm. Human Capabilities and Strong Sustainability. In: International Journal of Water 5 (4), S. 429–441.





Innovations in Doing and Being: Capability Innovations at the Intersection of Schumpeterian Political Economy and Human Development 




The paper proposes two explanatory hypotheses of innovation for social change: (a) social innovation as the carrying out of new combinations of capabilities; (b) social entrepreneurs as characterized by their capacity to imagine and carry out new combinations of capabilities. The combination of capabilities suggests a subset of human development where ethics meets innovation: a capability innovation pathway at the crossroads of long-term, societal perspectives on change (human development, Schumpeterian economic development) where innovation is social and capability advancement entrepreneurial.

Ziegler, Rafael (2010): Innovations in Doing and Being. Capability Innovations at the intersection of Schumpeterian political economy and human development. In: Journal of Social Entrepreneurship 1 (2),  255–272. Download





 Social Entrepreneurship – Status Quo 2009 (Selbst)Bild, Wirkung und Zukunftsverantwortung: Tagungsband. Berlin HUB, 16.und 17. Juni 2009



 Proceedings of the GETIDOS Social Entrepreneurship Conference and Open Space (in German, availablwe here  here)










Special Issue on Social Entrepreneurship, English Edition, December 2009


This Special Issue first appeared in German in Ökologisches Wirtschaften 2/2009, oekom verlag, June 2009. It includes some distinguished international authors on social entrepreneurship as well as some German voices. Following the publication of the German issue, we are glad that we can make these articles available also to the wider English speaking audience.

The full version of the Special Issue may be downloaded via this link.






An Introduction To Social Entrepreneurship - Voices, Preconditions, Context



'The book is a welcome and timely contribution to improving the understanding of social entrepreneurship and the work of social entrepreneurs. The text provides an excellent critical analysis of the dominant economic discourse surrounding social entrepreneurship.' - Bob Doherty, International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour and Research. Contributors: P. Albers, R. Boddice, H. Friebe, P. Grenier, D. Hjorth, E. Illouz, J. Korn, M. Kravcik, J. Mair, C. Seelos, K. Stanowski, R. Swedberg, I.B. Vasi, R. Ziegler.

Ziegler, Rafael (Hrsg.) (2009): An Introduction To Social Entrepreneurship - Voices, Preconditions, Contexts, Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd.

Das Inhaltsverzeichnis und das Einleitungskapitel können hier heruntergeladen werden. Im Internet unter: Das Buch ist  auch als Paperback erhältlich.












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13.4.2018 Deadline CfP Social Innovation and Sustainability

9.2.2018 Air beneath their wings Documentary online

26.1.2018 CrESSI-Social Innovation Conference Oxford

24.1.2018 Zukunftsalon München Book presentation

19.1.-21-1 3. Berlin River Film Festival

15.12.2017 Webinar Agency, Autonomy & Social Innovation

7.12.2017 Buch Wer zur Quelle will, muss gegen den Strom schwimmen

14.10.2017 1. Ryck-Tag Greifswald

15.7.2017 Deadline application Wild River Camp

May 2017: Special Issue Social Innovation & the Capability Approach

March 2017: New Book Global Water Ethics - Towards a global ethics charter

20.-22.1.2017 Wild and Scenic Film Festival, 2nd Berlin edition

9.1.2017  New research: Tackling Marginalisation through Social Innovation? 1. European Social Innovation Policy Forum

24.10.2016 Travelguide to a river - now available from here

5.-7.9.2016 Keynote at ISIRC 2016 Glasgow

6.7.-12.7.2016 Sensing the City - Youth River Action Camp, Berlin

30.6.2016 VL Rafael Ziegler, Wer zur Quelle will, muß gegen den Strom schwimmen. SI & Mitgestaltung von Wandel

3.6.2016 Vortrag L'eau et les rêves (en 2016). Nacht der Ideen, Institut Francais

21.4.2016  Lecture Jana Gebauer,  Breaking the cycle of feeling stagnant - Die transformative Rolle von Unternehmen im Postwachstum

April 2016 Social Entrepreneurship in the Water Sector - now also as a paperback

1.4.2016 Deadline Abstracts for economic underpinings of social innovation @ ISIRC 2016

20-22.1.2016 Wild & Scenic River Film Festival, Moviemento Berlin

18.11. Economic underpinnings of social innovation session @ SI Vienna

Big Jump Challenge 15 - Small acts of concrete solidarity. Report online

16.10.15 Flussparlament in Berlin

6.10.15 Webinar Municipal Housing in Vienna

15.10.15 Call for Papers Special Issue Social Innovation

6.-8.9.15. Special Session @ ISIRC 2015 Yorck

20.7. Getting on track for the future - the case for climate neutrality

13.7. 15 European Rivers Parliament, Brussels

23.-25.7.15. WaterEthics @ ISEE 2015 Kiel

7.5. Moving water messages

5. 5.15:  Call for Papers Special Session Economic underpinnings of social innovation

24.-27.3.15.  WassErleben Berlin

Register your Jump for the Big Jump Challenge by 22.3.2015

19.2.15. GETIDOS @Flussgebietsmanagement 2.0 Hannover

30.1.15. GETIDOS @ThinkShop des Laboratorio Expo

GETIDOS Newsletter 1/2015

15.10.2014 Join new Technology, Innovation and Design Group

09.10.2014: GETIDOS-Book-Launch