Dr Alex Nicholls’ research focuses on several key areas within social entrepreneurship and social innovation, including: the nexus of relationships between accounting, accountability and governance; public and social policy contexts of social entrepreneurship; impact investing; and Fair Trade.
The nexus of relationships between accounting, accountability and governance
Nicholls is the first researcher to provide a theoretical and empirical analysis of social impact reporting in social entrepreneurship. His research in this area suggests that social entrepreneurs use social impact reporting in a number of strategic ways to enhance their performance, access resources, and build organizational legitimacy. This work led to Nicholls’ development of a new conceptual model of social impact reporting– ‘Blended Value Accounting’ – that constitutes a spectrum of disclosure logics used by social entrepreneurs to access resources and realize organizational mission objectives with key stakeholders.
Nicholls, A., Somers, A., and Nicholls, J. (2012) Measuring Social Impact, Sage (forthcoming)
Nicholls A. (2010) ‘Institutionalizing Social Entrepreneurship in Regulatory Space: Reporting And Disclosure By Community Interest Companies’, Accounting, Organizations and Society, 35.4, pp. 394-415
Nicholls, A. (2010) ‘The Legitimacy of Social Entrepreneurship: Reflexive Isomorphism in a Pre-Paradigmatic Field’, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 34.4, pp. 611-633
Nicholls A. (2009) ‘“We Do Good Things Don’t We?”: Blended Value Accounting In Social Entrepreneurship’, Accounting, Organizations and Society, 34.6-7, pp. 755-769
(Most downloaded paper whilst the volume was in press.)
Nicholls A. (2010) ‘The Functions of Measurement in Social Entrepreneurship’, in Hockerts, K., Robinson, J., and Mair, J. (eds), Values and Opportunities in Social Entrepreneurship, Palgrave MacMillan, pp. 241-272
Nicholls, A. (2008) ‘Capturing the Performance of the Socially Entrepreneurial Organization (SEO): An Organizational Legitimacy Approach’, in Robinson, J., Mair, J., and Hockerts, K. (eds), International Perspectives on Social Entrepreneurship Research, Palgrave MacMillan, pp. 27-74
Public and social policy contexts of social entrepreneurship
Nicholls is currently conducting field research in Australia, Japan and India comparing political processes of social entrepreneurship at multiple socio-structural levels within each country and by fields and across different country settings.
Nicholls, A. (2012) ‘The Social Entrepreneurship-Social Policy Nexus in Developing Countries’, in Walker, D., and Surrender, R. (eds), Social Policy in a Developing World: A Comparative Analysis, Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
Nicholls, A., ‘Change and Persistence in Policy Formation: Ideational Dynamics in Historical Institutionalism’ (To be submitted to the Journal of Public Administration, Research and Theory)
Nicholls, A., Changing The Game: The Politics of Social Entrepreneurship, Edward Elgar (Book proposal under review)
Curtis, T., Minto, I., and Nicholls, A. (2007) Cultural Shift South East Report, SEEDA: Final Report
Nicholls is currently investigating the financial flows that capitalise social enterprises. His work in this area seeks to: clarify the issues surrounding impact investing and delineate its boundaries; map out the disparate traditions and professional communities engaged in impact investing; evaluate the scale of activity; and highlight issues within this rapidly developing market.
Nicholls, A. (2012) ‘Filling the Capital Gap: Institutionalizing Social Finance‘, in Denny, S., and Seddon, F. (eds), Evaluating Social Enterprise, Palgrave MacMillan (forthcoming)
Nicholls, A., and Schwartz, R. (2012) ‘The Demandside of the Social Investment Marketplace’, in Salamon, L.(ed), New Frontiers of Philanthropy, Jossey Bass (forthcoming)
Nicholls, A., Paton, R., and Emerson, J. (eds) (2012) Social Investment, Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
Nicholls, A. (2011) ‘Impacts of the Social Enterprise Investment Fund on the Landscape of Social Investment’, in Alcock, P., Hall, K., and Millar, R. (eds), Evaluation of the Social Enterprise Investment Fund, Department of Health
Nicholls, A. (2011) The Social Enterprise Investment Fund (SEIF) Evaluation: The Landscape of Social Investment in the UK, Third Sector Research Centre: Working Paper
Nicholls, (2010) ‘The Institutionalization of Social Investment: The Interplay of Investment Logics and Investor Rationalities’, Journal of Social Entrepreneurship, 1.1, pp. 70-100
(Awarded Best Paper in Entrepreneurship by the British Academy of Management 2009)
Nicholls, A., and Pharoah, C. (2007) The Landscape of Social Finance, Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship: Working Paper
Nicholls, A. (2005) Measuring Impact in Social Entrepreneurship: New Accountabilities to Stakeholders and Investors?, Local Government Research Centre: Working Paper
For the past decade, Nicholls has researched and written extensively on all aspects of Fair Trade. He is an internationally renowned scholar in the field and his work has furthered the industry’s understanding of the history, operational challenges and impacts of Fair Trade. Nicholls is the co-author of Fair Trade: Market Driven Ethical Consumption, the most cited and best-selling academic book on the subject globally.
Nicholls A. (2012) ‘Fair and Ethical Trade’, in Farrell, A. (ed), Encyclopaedia of Management: Marketing, Wiley (forthcoming)
Nicholls, A. (2011) ‘Fair Trade: Towards an Economics of Virtue’, Journal of Business Ethics, 92, pp.241-255
Nicholls, A. (2010) ‘What Gives Fair Trade It’s Right to Operate? Organizational Legitimacy and Strategic Management’, in Macdonald, K., and Marshall, S., Fair Trade, Corporate Accountability and Beyond: Experiments in Global Justice Governance Mechanisms, Ashgate, pp. 95-121
Nicholls, A., and Alexander, A. (2006) ‘Rediscovering Consumer-Producer Involvement: A Network Perspective on Fair Trade Marketing in the UK ', European Journal of Marketing, 40.11-12, pp.1236-1253
Nicholls, A., and Lee N. (2006) ‘Purchase Decision-Making in Fair Trade and the “Ethical Gap”', Journal of Strategic Marketing, 14, pp. 369-386
Nicholls, A., and Islam, A., ‘Certification Mechanisms as Communicative Action: Ethical Audit and Social Innovation’, to be submitted to Accounting, Organizations and Society
Nicholls, A., and Opal, C. (2005) Fair Trade: Market-Driven Ethical Consumption, Sage
(Best-selling and most cited academic book on Fair Trade; Published in Japanese, March 2010. Published in Korean, October 2010)
Nicholls, A. (2005) Thriving in a Hostile Environment: Fair Trade's Role as a Positive Market Mechanism for Disadvantaged Producers, Fairtrade Foundation: Working Paper
Nicholls, A. (2005) ‘Fair Trade: Can It Really Change the World?’, Alliance Magazine, 10.3, September, pp. 37-39
Nicholls, A. (2007) What is the Future of Social Enterprise in Ethical Markets?, Office of The Third Sector: Working Paper
For a full listing of Nicholls’ publications, please see his curriculum vitae