Quadruple Helix as a method to promote women’s entrepreneurship

In the project:

Introducing/highlighting the role of NGOs in women’s entrepreneurship development by putting a Quadruple Helix model into practical use.

A typical practical support structure model is a Triple Helix-thinking:


In the Nordic countries this method has used very much. In number of countries this spin is powerful.

The SME –blind Triple Helix clearly shows interaction between different actors:

In practice, government and academia can collaborate, but when they focus on industries they support dominating industries (located in towns, high-tech, growth- businesses). Small businesses, business for survival (service) and rural industries are neglected.

To go towards Quadruple Helix logic we shall include civil society. But what will the role of the civil society be? Can NGOs be considered as the 4th Helix? The Quadruple mode is very new, so far there are few experiences. One example is a study made by the Woman Resource Centres (Malin Lindberg ) – bifocal approach intended to increase women participation in regional development). Here it was mentioned first and from here started an Empirical case: the Quadruple Helix Central Baltic project.


As for the ”Government” from the model we have in the project: Stockholm County Administrative Board (SE), Municipality of Norrtälje (SE), Väståbolands stad (FI), Destination Roslagen (SE), Intermunicipal collaborative organization. ”Academia” in the project is represented by: Saaremaae University Centre (EE) – entrepreneurship research; KTH – Royal Institute of Technology (SE) – Innovation and Gender research and, Åbo Akademi University (FI) – Gender and ICP research. As for the ”Industry”: E-teams, regional teams of entrepreneurs collaborating in Estonia, Finland and Sweden, Local subcontractors and technology providers in Estonia, Finland and Sweden. Finally, the ”Civil society” is represented by: BalticFem(SE) – NGO organising local femal entrepreneurs SE; Eurohouse (EE) NGO organizing local female entrepreneurs; Läänemaa Tourism (EE) – local tourism association.

There have been various research activities undertaken, such as: workshops, study visits, dialogue seminars, E-teams project work, interview studies on conditions for female entrepreneurs to understand how they work in Finland, Estonia and Sweden.

What we have seen so far are that NGOs have four roles.

Role 1: NGOs as collaborative platforms

Activities: NGOs enable non‐hierarchical networking, business collaboration nodes; it is a good incubator for start of a cluster; arena for trustful communication and information exchange; carrier of common goals and values.

Challenges: Short‐term financing despite long‐term needs (gender inequalities exist for thousand of years, so we can’t solve the problem in two years); difficult trade-off for individual business owners between collaborating and running their own firm.

→ Cluster formation is not an easy matter!

Role 2: NGOs as legitimating link for other three actors (government, academia, industry)

Activities: Promoting gender mainstreaming in legislation and business support services; linking small businesses to authorities and academic institutions.

Challenges: Questioned legitimacy due to informal practices and being ’women’s’ organizations’ (specific interest, focusing just on women is not good); seen as competing with governmental structures. Lack of local legitimacy (in specific municipality they can have problem). Problems of creating linkages to academic organizations (links are not always needed, what is needed instead are well trained workers in particular business rather than laboratory tests).

Role 3: NGOs as host organisations for competence development and process innovations

Activities: Competence development (organising common trainings) and process innovations related to firm categories usually excluded in Triple Helix systems.

Challenges: Innovations not directly transformable into commercial products and services not valued by other helices. By other words, if we innovate something it cannot always be regarded as an innovation that can be sold on the market, so maybe it won’t be interesting in the same way as an innovation of a product.

Role 4: NGOs carrying individual and societal dimensions

Activities: Promoting bifocal approaches emphasising gender change as both individual and structural.

Challenges: Individual and structural aspects of women’s entrepreneurship seen as controversial and irrelevant in business communities.

So, we can define a role for the civil society:


Annika Skoglund has followed the work in Roslagen and the Swedish Entrepreneur Team which can be called a Quadruple Helix process in practice.

She described the work that took place during winter and spring 2011: In the established E-team network the idea of creating a new biking path that could unite the enterprises in the project was born. In February 2011 the work process started, there were discussions about how to do a mobile application for a biking path. A need for a database with information was highlighted and cooperation with Destination Roslagen started in order to share information from the web page Roslagen.se and the database behind it. Preparation of maps and brochures became actual; a workshop was held in order to discuss a Business Plan for a biking path idea.

In this specific workshop eleven participants (eight entrepreneurs) participated. It became a ”real thing” to connect the entrepreneurs in the abstract network via a biking path and create joint travel packages. Also a few more entrepreneurs who had previously tried to create bicycle packages joined the project and the E‐team group. They all formed one group.

The members of the group decided to cooperate with each other. Project management made entrepreneurs work. Benchmarking of ideas was undertaken. Cooperation with Destination Roslagen started and it became obvious that new information was required for the database ”Basetool”. The question whether the app was enough or not rose. Entrepreneurs were of the opinion that also a paper map was needed, something that tourists could look at directly. So collaboration started and a common graphical profile was designed. The bicycle map was seen as an important tool for promotion, something that could be shown to create interest about cycling tourism in Roslagen. But the problem was who would pay for the map and for what. Financial negotiation started and it showed that advertisements could be one way of financing the map.


A first workshop was organized and Lena Norrman lead it as a moderator. She was teaching participants who could be probable advertisers and sponsors. Local specialities were discussed and participants got homework: what can you offer TOGETHER as a network?


During the second workshop uniqueness was discussed. Ten participants (eight entrepreneurs) attended the workshop. Participants had to think of pleasures that could be offered to tourists. Homework focused on two aspects: What pleasures have we forgotten? Who are our customers?


The number of participants increased and reached 13 (eleven entrepreneurs). The discussion focused on details of the biking paths. It was decided to exclude Rimbo as there was no participant from that area. Among other issues participants talked about information that had to be present on Google maps, paper maps, brochures etc. Legal issues were also discussed.


The network participated at the Archipelago fair which was held in Stockholm. The expo had one fee for groups and another fee for individual participants. As a network they had to pay only one fee and it was positively received. At the fair they sold different packages (Bike rentals, B&B, attractions, food experiences, etc). It was also possible to make individual packages. The selling point was Roslagen as beautiful and non‐explored area.

At this stage Annika made interviews with entrepreneurs. She had long conversations and realized that the map and the produced brochure made them very positive towards the project. It was also the start of the season. Next mission was to attract tourists. Entrepreneurs had a common aim: to get tourists to stay in region, not just to use bike path. In order to keep them entrepreneurs were recommending the next hotel, the next B&B. Thus, they started helping each other.

The interview study showed that the entrepreneurs were positive about project management and the network but they lacked time. They were positive towards the technology (app) but they were waiting for it. They had a pricing agreement for the package tours, having same price to the customer although the standard between B&B:s and hostels varied. The group agreed to offer same type of service to the guests, such as luggage transportation and ”rent here, leave there” (collaborative approach). Everything showed that they wanted to work together, and not compete. They saw each other as back-up (”if one of our bikes break”) and were focused on keeping a tourist longer in the region. These are positive outcomes of the project.


  • The interest of the entrepreneurs
    1. Interest
    2. Participation
    3. Contribution
  • Change of owners
  • ”With time we found our different roles” (it’s important not to say what they shall do, they find their own roles)


Many women had this business as a part-time job. There is a big difference between an entrepreneur who inherited a business (for example a property for B&B) and an entrepreneur who started from scratch.


If we use a Quadruple Helix thinking one can see relations between all four actors and their respective roles/functions in the project:

Industry (E-teams, Package co, Destination Roslagen, Local subcontractors)

• Members in network (network venturing); • Initiative of common objective; • Tourism and ICT; • Business strategy; • Service growth; • Support each other

Government (Municipality of Norrtälje, Stockholm County Administrative Board)

• Initiative; • Tourism and ICT (bridge gender but not balance); • Financing; • Service innovation; • Support; • ”Glue” in the network; • Promotion

Academia (Saaremaa University, KTH, Åbo Akademi University)

• Education; • Gender awareness; • Policy proposals; • Reporting; • Academic publishing; • Project feedback; • Internal critical process

Civil society (BalticFem)

• Ideological aim; • Increase women’s entrepreneurship by business support; • Technical development; • Informational material; • Tight contact with the

municipality; • Implicitly inform about structures; • Promote to the old ”hawks”


  • Initiative acknowledged (financing, reputation)
  • Success common objective ‐ the map and broschure(business)
  • Project management (structure)
  • Entrepreneur selling packages (direction)
  • Networks already in place (adaptability)
  • A way of living (engagement)
  • From policy to business to long term cooperation


  • Gender awareness only implicit
  • ”There is no difference being a female entrepreneur” (financial support, administrative support)
  • Too many networks


  • Improve the project by the app
  • Improve the sales channels
  • Improve gender awareness (NGO and entrepreneur interface)
  • Benchmark more internally in the network (boat path)


  • Cooperative practices
  • Kärlekskraft” (Jonasdottir, ”Love-power”, it’s a typical female phenomena, women are more cooperative than men. Many women are happy to give love to customers)
  • Local networks
  • Political limitations

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