TRS.20.043 – Maintaining Equal Economic Opportunities in Times of Crisis

Route: Towards resilient societies

Cluster question: 049 How can we ensure that our labour force and labour-market organisations remain robust and resilient as they face the challenges of the 21st century?

There is a widespread consensus that private actor involvement is a key requirement for solving the grand challenges of our time. Our focus in this research project is on creating equal economic opportunities in the Dutch labor market. This problem greatly depends on private actors – social enterprises in particular- offering internships, jobs and other types of opportunities to people from disadvantaged positions.

Economic crises, and the current Corona-crisis in particular, pose a critical challenge in this regard. On the one hand, they increase the need for social missions centered at offering work and internships to disadvantaged individuals as crises tend to exacerbate existing inequalities. On the other hand, crises put intense pressure on the resources available for social enterprises to keep offering such positions. As a result, they face the risk of ‘mission drift’ as the need to survive trumps all else.

This research aims to uncover how social enterprises can maintain and scale social impact in times of crisis. Important questions in this regard are: How do economic crises in general, and the Covid-19 pandemic in particular, influence the emergence, evolution, and performance of social enterprises seeking equal economic opportunities in the Dutch labor market? How can social enterprises develop the resilience necessary for not only surviving economic crises, but also scaling their social impact? To answer these and related questions, a novel set of research methods will be used including in-depth interviews, web-scraping and text sentiment analyses, large scale panel studies, and a field experiment.

Based on the findings of this project, our consortium will develop and validate actionable tools to support social enterprises in navigating economic downturns and scale societal impact. Doing so contributes towards making our economy more robust to future economic shocks while ensuring continued private involvement in enhancing equal economic opportunity.


economic crisis, Education, Equal opportunities, labor market, social entrepreneurship

Other organisations

Erasmus Universiteit (EUR), Forward Incubator, Gelijke Kansen Alliantie, Impact Hub, MKB Nederland, Rabobank, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen (RU), Stichting DOEN


Organisation Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)
Name Prof. dr. W. (Wouter) Stam