At one level, social innovation is an extraordinarily creative field – and one that is having a global impact. But it’s also a field that is only just taking shape and moving beyond anecdotes (Mulgan, 2010).
Interest in the practice of social innovation has been growing at a dramatic rate but so far this pace has not been matched in academia. Put politely, the study of social innovation is an emerging field at the early stages of development. Put more bluntly, it is in a bit of a mess.
The results of a survey of the literature found “little serious research, no widely shared concepts, thorough histories, comparative research or quantitative analysis” (Mulgan, Tucker, Ali & Sanders, 2007, p. 7). While a number of universities have established research centres dedicated to the study of social innovation, there is no clearly identifiable body of literature or academic home.
But this is changing! For those interested in studying social innovation and exploring its transformative effects there is a growing community. A review of the literature reveals an eclectic range of disciplines interested in the topic of social innovation. There are connections to social entrepreneurship, social enterprise, social economy, social capital, social finance, and corporate social responsibility. Social innovation is also a topic of some significance within urban studies (e.g., Moulaert, Martinelli, González & Swyngedouw, 2007), technology management (e.g., Dawson, Daniel & Farmer, 2010), and the study of creativity (e.g., Mumford, 2002). Theoretical connections are made to the innovation literature, most notably complexity theory (e.g., Westley et al., 2006).
With all this activity there is a growing set of resources.
Key Articles & Books
There are some articles/books that are essential reading to understand this emerging field. More.
In the last two years there has been articles written on social innovation in a diverse range of fields. More.
To meet others interested in the study and practice of social innovation. More.