First Comparative Analysis on the Worldwide Mapping of Social Innovations is available in July

While the SI-DRIVE Critical Literature Review (Howaldt et al. 2014) provided a general depiction of how social innovation resonates within the wider frameworks of existing innovation theory and research, the concepts and perceptions of social change and of societal and policy development, the purpose of the Comparative Analysis is to check the theoretical framework against the first empirical dataset of SI-DRIVE (empirical phase 1).

This first Comparative Analysis investigates empirical data based on more than 1.000 cases in seven major policy areas all over the world, supplemented by policy field related state of the art reports, a regional trend study including the major world regions (Australia/New Zealand, Western and South-East Asia, North and South Africa, North and South America, Russia) and first policy and foresight workshops. SI-DRIVE aiming at a comprehensive and systematic analysis is focusing on the main societal challenges reflected by different policy fields and combining qualitative research (reviewing and reporting social innovation relevant theories and state-of-the art) with a first quantitative mapping of the whole world of Social Innovation.

Against this background and as an explorative inventory of an almost unknown area the Comparative Analysis is providing an overview of various types of social innovations in the seven policy areas (education, employment, environment and climate change, energy supply, transport and mobility, health and social care, and poverty reduction and sustainable development). The report is delivering new intelligence on the diversity of social innovation approaches in different parts of the world used by practitioners, researchers and policy makers, reflecting the diversity, broadness and usability of Social Innovation, proving the variety of actors and their interaction and exploring the systemic character and concept of Social Innovation.

The conducted mapping demonstrates the need for social innovation to overcome the (policy field related) societal challenges and social demands and the broad range of practice fields covered by the initiatives. In every policy field we find an increasing number of social innovation initiatives addressing a high diversity of social needs and societal challenges, not limited to one but often work across several policy fields. Social innovation has become a ubiquitous concept.

The main results at a glance:

  1. Social needs and societal challenges are the focus, start, motivation, trigger and driver
  2. Variety of forms and concepts and high dynamics appear
  3. Manifold actors and cross sector collaborations are the emerging backbone
  4. Empowerment and user involvement are a core element
  5. Complexity of the innovation processes needs different modes of governance
  6. Emerging ecosystems in front
  7. Different levels of intervention are necessary
  8. Practice Field approach helps to combine social innovations
  9. Resources and barriers are manifold
  10. Framework conditions and enabling factors still to be developed
  11. Social Innovation Initiatives – driven by problems and depending on individuals!

The results of the global mapping reveal the importance of Social Innovation addressing social, economic, political and environmental challenges of the 21st century on a global scale.

At the same time there is an increased awareness of the size of the challenges modern societies are facing and the complexity of innovation processes. Like technological innovations successful social innovations are based on a lot of presuppositions and require appropriate infrastructures and resources. Moreover, social innovations are requiring specific conditions because they aim at activating, fostering, and utilizing the innovation potential of the whole society. Therefore, new ways of developing and diffusing social innovations are necessary (e.g. design thinking, innovation labs etc.) as well as additional far reaching resources, to unlock the potential of social innovation in society and to enable participation of the relevant actors and civil society.

This is not only a matter of appropriate funding but also of new participation and collaboration structures, co-creation and user involvement, empowerment and human resources development. Attention has to be paid to the invention and its development as well as its diffusion and imitation. From this innovation process and development perspective resources, capabilities and constraints, drivers and barriers are not only relevant for the invention and implementation but also for scaling and diffusion of successful innovations.

The mapping demonstrates that social innovation processes and the underlying resources, capabilities and constraints are also very much related to the actors of the different sectors of the social innovation ecosystem. This includes a new role of public policy and government for creating suitable framework and support structures, the integration of resources of the economy and civil society as well as supporting measures by science and universities (e.g. education for social innovation performance, know-how transfer).

Even though a broad spectrum of social innovations is present in the policy fields all Policy Field Reports, in addition, notify an unclear understanding of the concept of Social Innovation, report on social innovations in their policy fields even if they are not called social innovations and call for further social innovations to respond to the societal challenges the world is facing.

So one of the most important insights of the mapping is that given the strong need for Social Innovation highlighted by the various policy field experts, and, bearing in mind the drivers but in particular also the barriers for social innovation a social innovation friendly environment still has to be developed in Europe as well as globally.


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