The Enterprise and Diversity Alliance: Promoting Knowledge Exchange in the New Era of Business Support

Lead Research Organisation: De Montfort University
Department Name: Strategic Management and Marketing


This project aims to establish the Enterprise and Diversity Alliance (EDA) as the United Kingdom’s leading knowledge exchange network for entrepreneurship and minority businesses (that is, small enterprises owned by ethnic minorities, women and young people).

It brings together researchers, corporations, the finance sector and professional bodies in order to pursue one central ambition: to ‘make diversity and enterprise everyone’s business’.

Three strands of work will be undertaken to ensure that knowledge on minority enterprise is shared widely with relevant stakeholders. First, innovative peer mentoring initiatives with minority entrepreneurs will be launched. Second, the project will integrate knowledge on diversity and enterprise in the practices of large organisations. Finally, knowledge and insights from the implementation of the EDA project will be shared with the wider peer, professional and policy networks of partner organisations. In effect, EDA members will be ambassadors for diversity and enterprise amongst their peers. This provides an opportunity for the EDA to influence major national initiatives.


Planned Impact

Our approach
Explicit engagement with the concept of 'impact' is central to the proposal. Theoretically, our approach is informed by Van de Ven's (2007) concept 'engaged scholarship' and the method of action learning. Such approaches call for the fusion of practice and academe, with the aim of generating 'knowledge integration' so they are no longer two separate domains. These perspectives also have strong affinities with the key factors that the ESRC (2009) regard as vital for impact generation: pre-existing relationships and networks with user communities; involving users at all stages of the research; well-planned user engagement strategies; and portfolios of research activity that build reputations with research users.

Impact pathways
The multiplicity of pathways to secure 'impact' is a unique feature of the proposed activity. A wide range of sectors, organisations and agencies are represented in the proposal. They are all committed to developing activities for the benefit of minority entrepreneurs, as well as their own organisations. However, in addition to the pursuit of individual organisational objectives, participants are keen to act as advocates for diversity amongst their peer organisations. Further, in some cases (ACCA, BitC and CIPS) partners are membership based organisations, and therefore will utilise the intervention for the benefit of their respective constituencies.

The use of action learning ensures that a genuinely collaborative approach to impact is central to the implementation of the project. Participants themselves are responsible for being active group members; delivering collectively agreed activities; and initiating change within their own organisations. The action learning approach allows for periods of 'critical reflection', the purpose of which is to assess the nature and degree of impact.

Participants will also be invited to explore the impact on themselves as individuals. It is worth emphasising that many of the individuals concerned occupy senior positions within their organisations, and are often in a position to exercise considerable influence. Hence they can utilise the experience and insights gained from the project to make changes to practice. Reciprocally, they are also able to share knowledge from practitioner communities which will be of great value to the practice of research. The significance of such interactions in relation to 'impact' will be assessed.

Types of Impact
Using the ESRC's own guidance, we anticipate 'instrumental', 'conceptual' and 'capacity-building' impacts:

Each participant is willing to explore concrete ways in which they can improve the way that they engage with business owners from minority backgrounds. For example, Barclays and Lloyds TSB wish to develop a mechanism to establish a dialogue with ethnic minority firms. The EHRC is looking for examples of good practice that could inform guidance on procurement and diversity. The Access to Finance Task Group (represented by Lloyds TSB) is keen to ensure that its national mentoring proposition is as 'inclusive' as possible.

It is evident that participants have different approaches to diversity. The project will actively facilitate exchanges of these varying perspectives. The action learning approach will contribute to a 'reframing' of the issue, as participants share their experiences and reflect on concrete actions that they have collaboratively developed and delivered.

We anticipate a deepening of the participants' knowledge base on diversity issues in respect of minority entrepreneurship. The implications of this knowledge for the practice of partner organisations will be explored, and enacted through concrete initiatives, during the course of the project. Based on the experience of the 12/8 Group, the two new peer mentoring initiatives will strengthen the capacity of participating minority firms to pursue their growth ambitions.


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Description Citation in Chartered Association of Business School report on 'Delivering Value to Local and Regional Economies' (2016:10)
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
Description Cited as good practice in key European documents oby European Commission and OECD
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
Description European Commission report 'Evaluation and Analysis of Good Practices in Promoting and Supporting Migrant Entrepreneurship'.
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
Description ESRC IAA
Amount £12,135 (GBP)
Organisation Economic and Social Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 01/2016 
End 12/2016