Innovation generated by users has in recent years been the subject of considerable interest. For the most part this has focused on commercial solutions, from mountain-biking to medical equipment. Businesses are encouraged to find ways to develop and integrate the insights of these “creative users” into their products and services.
The advantage of such innovation is that users are so close to the action. They experience the product at first hand, understand how it works in practice and are the first to experience any problems. This ‘real-life’ knowledge is said to make them particularly well suited to develop new ideas.
In a recent article in the Journal of Social Entrepreneurship*, Peter Svensson and Lars Bengtsson (2010) draw on the idea of user driven innovation in the commercial sector and apply it to explore the organizing of social innovations.
Instead of users who have with issues with products, users are “people with social problems”. Through this lens they explore two innovations in Stockholm, one shaped by “young criminals”, and the other by “disadvantaged mothers”.