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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions


This dissertation investigates social enterprise within the context of sustainable development and poverty alleviation in Ecuador. Due to their scalability, accountability and financial sustainability, social enterprise presents a powerful mechanism for engineers wanting to maximise the impact of innovations targeted at the bottom of the pyramid. To this end, this research provides critical insight by answering two questions:
1. "What factors specific to social enterprise should be considered when using it as a mechanism for delivering sustainable development within Ecuador?"
2. "To what extent should a social enterprise’s earned revenue strategy be aligned to, or separated from, its social mission?"
These questions were answered based on primary data collected in Ecuador. Thirty semi-structured interviews were conducted with key stakeholders and four social enterprise case studies were utilised to provide context to the analysis.
The research highlighted four key factors for consideration within the categories of politics, society, economy and environment. Primary findings relate to the inherent political nature of social enterprise and the resultant need to cooperate with government policy in order to achieve scale. Furthermore, it was found that due to the nature of civil society in Ecuador, social enterprises are more likely to sit within the institutions of the market and the state, thus influencing their strategy and business model.
With regard to the alignment of social and revenue generating activities, it was found that it is preferable for these two activities to be as aligned as possible. However, it was noted that there are certain issues which cannot be solved directly through market-mechanisms, hence requiring alternative solutions.
The report concludes by providing seven recommendations to practitioners and detailing four areas for further research. This research constitutes the first contributions to academia with regard to: a holistic analysis of the factors affecting social enterprise in Ecuador within a sustainable development context; and a critical evaluation of the embedded, integrated and external business models using case study analysis.


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.