Transcending the pyramid: opportunity co-creation for social innovation

Muthu De Silva*, Zaheer Khan, Tim Vorley, Jing Zeng

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


There is a lack of understanding of how social enterprises with their partners co-create opportunities to concurrently generate both social and economic value across the pyramid. Drawing on evidence from multiple case-studies, this paper addresses this gap to further our understanding of opportunity co-creation by social enterprises. We find that social enterprises co-create opportunities to simultaneously generate social and economic value with both the top of the pyramid (TOP) and bottom of the pyramid (BOP) partners; we thus call them Transcending Pyramid Social Enterprises (TPSEs). Opportunity co-creation comprises commercialising the social opportunity characteristics of prevalence, relevance, and accessibility to create both the demand and supply sides of a market. Supply side opportunity co-creation involves fulfilling institutional voids, developing relational capital with the BOP, and meeting the needs of the BOP. Demand side opportunity co-creation involves generating market access to the TOP, raising awareness of value generated by TPSEs, and fulfilling the needs of TOP customers. Co-created opportunities are thus capable of both addressing the economic and social and/or environmental issues of the BOP and meeting the altruistic and consumption needs of the TOP. The implications for social enterprises, their partners, and policy makers are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-486
Number of pages16
JournalIndustrial Marketing Management
Early online date16 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

We would like to acknowledge the financial assistance provided by the Kent Business School, University of Kent and the British Academy of Management Transition Grant as well as the excellent research assistance provided by Hasan Khan. We also extend grateful thanks to our editors, Professors, Suraksha Gupta and Naveen Dontu, and anonymous reviewers for their comments and guidance that helped improve the paper.


  • Bottom of the pyramid
  • Case study
  • Emerging economies
  • Opportunity co-creation
  • Relationships
  • Social enterprises


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