Call for Papers: Focused Issue on "MNCs and Social Innovation in Emerging Markets’’

Guest Editors:

Samuel Adomako, University of Birmingham, UK (
Xiaohui Liu, University of Birmingham, UK (
Riikka M Sarala, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, USA (
Mujtaba Ahsan, San Diego State University, USA (
Jeoung Yul Lee, Hongik University, South Korea / Chongqing Technology and Business University, China (
Oded Shenkar, The Ohio State University, USA (

Submission Deadline: May 30, 2023

Overview and Motivation for this Focused Issue: 

Social innovation is an important concept in the field of innovation. Defined as novel solutions to effectively and efficiently address social problems and needs for social progress (Adomako, & Tran, 2021; Lee, Spanjol, & Sun, 2019), social innovation is considered a cornerstone for tackling global grand social challenges (Lee, Spanjol & Sun, 2019) such as social inequality, poverty, climate change, pollution, energy security, unemployment, food safety and health care. Unlike pure commercial innovation, social innovation addresses social or environmental needs without a profit motive (Steinfield, & Holt, 2019). 
    While the IB literature provides valuable insights on various aspects of social innovation research (Rygh, 2020), the relationship between multinational corporations (MNCs) and social innovation has received sporadic attention in mainstream international business (IB) research (Dionisio & de Vargas, 2020). There is a lack of theory development which integrates the IB literature with social innovation studies; for example, we have little knowledge about how both formal and informal institutions affect the co-creational process of social innovation in MNCs. Such a tension points to the need to examine the relationship between institutional arrangements and social innovation.            
          Relatedly, our understanding of when, and how, social innovation may be driven by MNCs in precarious institutional contexts such as those mostly found in emerging markets is fairly limited (Onsongo, 2019; Turker & Vural, 2017). Further, while existing IB theories tend to underpin MNCs’ profit maximization objective in terms of their investment motives and cross-border operations, it is important to bring social innovation to the forefront of IB research by developing and extending IB theories to account for the sources and nature of social innovation in MNCs. These knowledge gaps present challenges, but also opportunities for social innovation research in IB.
Therefore, this focused issue aims to bridge two disciplines, social innovation research and IB literature, by bringing social innovation in MNCs into mainstream IB research. It calls for researchers to contribute to the field of social innovation in IB studies by unpacking what factors motivate MNCs to engage in social innovation, what mechanisms affect the process of such innovation and under what conditions social innovation delivers the desirable outcomes expected by the various stakeholders. Thus, we seek theoretical, conceptual, and empirical papers that may address, but are not limited to, the following list of potential research questions:  

Antecedents of social innovation in MNCs

  • What are the firm-level drivers and barriers to social innovation by MNCs? When competing against emerging market MNCs, how do developed market MNCs decide on their “ideal” social innovation strategy?
  • How do MNC strategies (e.g., location choices and entry mode decisions) influence social innovation activities? Which form of foreign entry modes is most effective for developing social innovations?
  • What are the institutional and cultural drivers of social innovation in MNCs? How do stakeholder pressures (e.g., customers, government/regulators, media, religious groups, tribal leaders, political actors, and civil society competitors etc.) influence the social innovation activities of MNCs in emerging markets? What types of political strategies lead to social innovation activities in MNCs? What are the cross-country differences and similarities of MNCs’ social innovation? 

The processes of social innovation in MNCs 

  • How do advanced economy and emerging economy MNCs differ in terms of managing social innovation? What explains differences in their approaches to and processes of social innovation? 
  • What are mechanisms and contingencies that affect the process of social innovation in MNCs? To what extent do MNCs’ social innovation activities across countries allow for local adaptation in host countries? What factors affect the process of transfer and diffusion of social innovation practices through the global networks of MNCs? 
  • How do institutional voids influence MNCs’ social innovation processes? How do MNCs build relationships with relevant stakeholders (e.g., NGOs, government entities) and ensure their continued support to improve social innovation activities? 

Outcomes of social innovation in MNCs

  • In what ways do MNCs’ social innovations impact society? How do the end users of social innovations, such as community members, local governments, social activists, base-of-the-pyramid consumers, and international agencies such as the United Nations benefit from MNCs’ social innovations? 
  • How does social innovation help emerging market and advanced market MNCs achieve financial and social success? To what extent is social innovation considered central to the effectiveness of institutional legitimacy in host countries?  
  • How can MNCs’ social innovation performance be measured? What incentives can effectively help MNCs pursue social innovation? 

Submission Process Details:
The submission deadline is May 30, 2023. Manuscripts should follow the guidelines of Management International Review. Contributions should be submitted in English, in a Microsoft Word format directly via e-mail to Dr Samuel Adomako ( by the deadline of May 30, 2023. For more information about this Call for Papers, please contact the Focused Issue Editors:  Dr Samuel Adomako (, Professor Xiaohui Liu (, Professor Riikka M Sarala (, Dr Mujtaba Ahsan (, Professor Jeoung Yul Lee (, and Professor Oded Shenkar (

Adomako, S., & Tran, M. D. (2021). Local embeddedness, and corporate social performance: The mediating role of social innovation orientation. Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management.
Dionisio, M., & de Vargas, E. R. (2020). Corporate social innovation: A systematic literature review. International Business Review, 29(2), 101641.
Lee, R. P., Spanjol, J., & Sun, S. L. (2019). Social innovation in an interconnected world: Introduction to the special issue. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 36(6), 662-670.
Onsongo, E. (2019). Institutional entrepreneurship and social innovation at the base of the pyramid: The case of M-Pesa in Kenya. Industry and Innovation, 26(4), 369-390.
Rygh, A. (2020). Social value creation by multinational enterprises: The next “Big Question” for international business research? Critical Perspectives on International Business, 16(1), 47-75.
Steinfield, L., & Holt, D. (2019). Toward a theory on the reproduction of social innovations in subsistence marketplaces. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 36(6), 764-799.
Turker, D., & Vural, C. A. (2017). Embedding social innovation process into the institutional context: Voids or supports. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 119, 98-113.

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