Cheng Lu Headshot

Research Topic

Measuring the Unmeasurable? How Community-Based Social Enterprises in China Create Social Impact

Research Summary

There is a growing movement to develop systematic approaches to identify and measure social impacts for emerging social enterprises (SE), in response to the call from cross-sectoral demands among funders, practitioners, researchers, and policy-makers.

Community-based SEs, as a sub-type of SEs, are playing an irreplaceable role in addressing local issues and promoting community developments, with their competitive advantages to establishing mutual-benefit networks, reshaping community structures, and generating social capitals, yet some of these values have not been fully understood.

The core research question of my PhD project is: how do community-based social enterprises in China create social impact? This study purposefully straddles academia, policy making, and practice-based considerations, aiming to provide a better analytical perspective to reveal the value creation process of community-based SEs. A workable measurement framework that takes real-world needs and constraints into account can also be expected.


Research Area


After earning my master’s degree in Political Science from Peking University in July 2018, I came to the UK and then became a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh Business School.

I have been actively delving into the social entrepreneurship domain for a few years, getting involved in various academic projects including, but not limited to:

  • Feasibility Study on the Pilot Social Enterprises in Beijing
  • Social Enterprise Certification System in China
  • Social Impact Investment Landscape in Eight Countries (G8)

While pursuing my studies, I paid special attention to Community Interest Companies (CIC) and the general backdrop of the government-supported social enterprise ecosystem in the UK, which was further investigated in my master’s thesis.

My research interests straddle the areas of Social Entrepreneurship, Government Regulation, and Public Sector Management. Trained in sociology and political science, I am now taking a novel approach to research how community-based social enterprises in China create social impact. Beyond Edinburgh, I am also actively involved in some research work as a Research Assistant: one is the System Change Observatory project led by Oxford Saïd, and the other is the Environmental NGOs in China project led by Nanyang Business School, NTU.