Narratives of change: How social innovation initiatives construct societal transformation

J.m. Wittmayer*, J. Backhaus, Flor Avelino, B. Pel, T. Strasser, I. Kunze, L. Zuijderwijk

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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    Alongside current policy discourses on the transformative potentials of social innovation, social innovation initiatives also construct their own accounts of how society can be transformed and by whom. Building on state-of-the-art futures studies and narrative research and their linkages, this article unfolds these narratives of change (NoC) by social innovation initiatives. A tripartite framework is used to analyse and discuss the content, construction and role of the NoC of four initiatives: Ashoka, the Global Ecovillage Network, RIPESS and Shareable. The analysis shows that all NoC suggest alternative economic arrangements that challenge the current neoliberal, capitalist system, including the dominant policy narrative of (social) innovation for economic growth. It further highlights the pivotal role of NoC in the construction of individual and social identities and the efforts dedicated to the development and communication of collectively shared worldviews. Differences in NoC are identified regarding the more deliberative or rather hierarchical ways of narrative construction. Concluding reflections highlight how NoC reveal the failings of current systems and suggest alternatives, that their construction mirrors and thereby tests the model of change advocated by social innovation initiatives and that NoC may lure actors into enrolment by offering opportunities to engage in meaning-making.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number102433
    Number of pages12
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2019


    • Alternative futures
    • Counter-narratives
    • FUTURE
    • Narratives of change
    • Social innovation
    • Societal transformation

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