How do we define social innovation?
A social innovation consists of a new form of cooperation at individual or organisational level that leads to new ideas, the implementation of which is at least envisaged. In the context of regional development, such an innovation can have a positive impact on society, improve the quality of life and/or change social relationships or power relations.
Definitions of social innovation vary widely in the literature. A strong current expects social innovations to have positive effects on society. From this perspective, social innovations are seen as solutions to social problems, as an impulse for empowerment and for changes in social relationships (Moulaert et al., 2013; Mulgan et al., 2007). Another movement around Franz et al. (2012), with its sociological perspective, is rather neutral towards the effects of social innovations and focuses primarily on changing social practices and relationships. Mumford (2002) sees in social innovations new ideas of how social relationships and social organisation can be shaped to achieve a common goal. The creative process of innovation generation and implementation is the focus here. For this research project we use a definition that integrates these different orientations and is based on the bibliometric analysis of Ayob et al. (2016).
Ayob, Noorseha, Simon Teasdale, and Kylie Fagan. 2016. “How Social Innovation ‘Came to Be’: Tracing the Evolution of a Contested Concept.” Journal of Social Policy 45(4): 635–53.
Franz, Hans-Werner, Josef Hochgerner, and Jürgen Howaldt. 2012. “Challenge Social Innovation: An Introduction.” In Challenge Social Innovation, eds. Hans-Werner Franz, Josef Hochgerner, and Jürgen Howaldt. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 1–16.
Moulaert, Frank, Diana MacCallum, Abid Mehmood, and Abdelillah Hamdouch. 2013. The International Handbook on Social Innovation. eds. Frank Moulaert, Diana MacCallum, Abid Mehmood, and Abdelillah Hamdouch. Edward Elgar Publishing.
Mulgan, Geoff, Simon Tucker, Rushanara Ali, and Ben Sanders. 2007. Social Innovation: What It Is, Why It Matters and How It Can Be Accelerated. London: Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship.
Mumford, Michael D. 2002. “Social Innovation: Ten Cases From Benjamin Franklin.” Creativity Research Journal 14(2): 253–66.