Business models for social value creation. The case of Metro de Medellin.

Examining the role of business models in overcoming collective action problems towards social value creation

It is widely agreed that today’s environmental and social challenges can only be solved through collective action of multiple societal stakeholders (Bridoux and Stoelhorst, 2022; Bodin, 2017). However, opportunities to advance social welfare often exhibit collective action problems – situations in which it is economically attractive for the actors involved to minimize their individual contribution to joint value creation (Klein et al. 2019; Bridoux & Stoelhorst 2016). As firms are mostly interested in their own financial performance, their willingness to contribute to joint value creation is also typically limited (Freeman et al., 2010; Friedman, 2007). However, substantial growth in social welfare is unlikely if firms do not contribute to it (Palmié et al., 2021; Jones, 1995). 


Business models describe how technologies and other resources will be converted into value (Pieroni et al., 2019). They have emerged as a primary determinant of firm performance, with more and more firms engaging in business model innovation to improve their financial performance (Teece, 2010; Casadesus-Masanell and Zhu, 2012). Business models that allow firms to create economic value for themselves while producing social benefits could therefore be a powerful solution to these problems (Mignon and Bankel, 2021; Biloslavo et al., 2018).


The main objective of the thesis would be to examine the role of business models in overcoming collective action problems towards social value creation. It is expected that your research will make a contribution to the literature sub-stream on sustainable business models by developing (1) an analysis of collective action problems in the context of shared value creation; or (2) a conceptualization of shared- and social-value creation and its enabling factors and conditions; or (3) exploring the design of business models and evaluating the possibilities for the concurrent capture and delivery of both economic value and social and environmental benefits. 


You will start by reviewing the state of the art of the literature streams on business models, collective action, and social value creation.  You are encouraged to follow a qualitative case study approach (Yin 2009) and consider using Metro de Medellin as an empirical setting for your study. Metro de Medellin is an integrated public mobility system, the only one of its kind in Colombia, with an economically sound business model that plays a vital role in enhancing urban connectivity across the different parts of the city while enabling better access and quality of living across different social classes through fast, easy, and affordable transportation. The proposed data collection method would entail taking expert interviews with internal and stakeholders of this company. If you would like to analyse another company, please reach out to us. We are happy to discuss its suitability.   

Your profile
• Strong interest in the fields of sustainability and business models
• Independent, organized, conscientious, and result-oriented working attitude
• Effective interpersonal skills 
• Proficient oral and written communication skills in English, German, and Spanish
• Prior research experience, interviewing, and data coding skills would be an advantage

Whom to contact?
If you find the topic interesting, please do not hesitate to contact Prof. Dr. Maximilian Palmié ( and Tihomir Tsenkulovski ( Please attach your CV and current grade transcript to your e-mail.

Prof. Dr. Maximilian Palmié
Director Sustainability Innovation Lab