Professor Alex Nicholls

Fellow and Tutor in Management; Professor of Social Entrepreneurship

Alex Nicholls is Fellow and Tutor in Management for Harris Manchester College, and is Professor of Social Entrepreneurship within the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford.

Before his appointment in Oxford in 2004, Alex served as a Lecturer in Marketing at Aston University. He has also held positions at the University of Surrey; Leeds Metropolitan University and the University of Toronto. Prior to academic life, Alex held senior management positions at the John Lewis Partnership, the largest mutual retailer in Europe.   He earned a BA (Hons), MA and PhD in English Language and Literature from King’s College, London and an MBA from Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford.


At undergraduate level, Alex teaches on the following courses: General Management; Marketing; Brand Management;  Operations Strategy; Supply Chain Ethics; Entrepreneurship; Social Finance.  At graduate level he teaches Social Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation on both the MBA and EMBA courses, Rethinking Business, Social Finance, and Social Impact Measurement on the MBA course and supervises projects.  He also supervises MSc (thesis) and DPhil students.


Alex’s research interests range across several key areas within social entrepreneurship and social innovation, including: social finance and social impact investing, the nexus of relationships between accounting, accountability and governance, public and social policy contexts, and Fair Trade. To date he has published more than seventy peer-reviewed papers and book chapters, many in FT Top 30 journals, and five books.   He is the General Editor of the Journal of Social Entrepreneurship, the leading academic journal in the field.

Alex edited Social Entrepreneurship: New Models of Sustainable Social Change (Oxford University Press, 2006), the first book to present a wide-ranging, internationally focused collection of key social entrepreneurship work from leading academics, policy makers and practitioners. It remains the most cited scholarly book on the subject. In 2011, he co-edited Social Innovation: Blurring Boundaries to Reconfigure Markets (Palgrave MacMillan), a collection that explores solutions to many of the current ‘wicked problems’ confronting the world. The book argues that social innovation offers potential solutions to climate change, the crisis of the welfare state, health pandemics and failures, social dislocation and inequality, and educational failure. Alex’s second book on social innovation was published in 2015 in collaboration with NESTA, New Frontiers of Social Innovation (Palgrave MacMillan).

His most recent book focuses on Social Finance (Oxford University Press, 2015). This edited volume provides the first comprehensive account of the emerging social finance market globally and includes a range of chapters covering many key topics including Social Impact Bonds, microfinance; social risk and return, social impact measurement, crowd-funding, Islamic finance, environmental finance and public policy agendas.

Alex’s next project is a comparative research monograph exploring multiple country contexts (including the UK, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Kenya, Brazil and India) in terms of the political processes of social innovation at multiple socio-structural levels and by fields. This research will be presented in a forthcoming book Changing the Rules of the Game: The Politics of Social Innovation, scheduled to be completed in 2017.

Alex has worked extensively on Fair Trade and is one of the foremost scholars in this field, having co-authored a major research book, Fair Trade: Market-Driven Ethical Consumption (Sage, 2005), which is the most cited and best-selling academic book on the subject globally. He has also published a variety of peer-reviewed journal papers on aspects of the subject – most recently examining how major corporate retailers negotiate meanings with Fair Trade suppliers. He also serves as a non-Executive Director for a major Fair Trade clothing company.

Alex is also currently leading a major European Union Framework Protocol 7 funded project: CRESSI. This four-year project brings together scholars from seven countries to examine the economic underpinnings of social innovation in the European Union in terms of its effects on the most marginalized populations. The project develops a new theoretical framework from economic sociology to analyze a range of aspects of social innovation including impact metrics, finance, social policy and entrepreneurship. The project has already produced a number of papers and will be completed, with the publication of a major book, in 2018.



Contact Details
Postal Address
Harris Manchester College
Mansfield Road
United Kingdom