Social Innovation in Disability Nonprofits: An Abductive Study of Capabilities for Social Change

Rachel Taylor, Nuttaneeya (Ann) Torugsa*, A. Arundel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This study uses an abduction-based approach to identify the capabilities harnessed by nonprofit organizations (NPOs) as they develop social innovations. The context of this study is the Australian disability sector currently undergoing a once-in-a-generation social policy reform with the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Data from extensive field observation and 52 interviews were collected during “researcher-in-residences” at two disability NPOs and analyzed using thematic coding and practice–theory iteration to arrive at a “working” hypothesis. The findings reveal many capabilities used by disability NPOs on the path to social innovation development. The complex interplay of these capabilities forms five pivotal capabilities (i.e., transformational empathy, place-based relationing, diversity learning, paradoxical change making, and complexity leadership) for eliciting nonprofit social innovation (NSI) with community and system-level impacts.
Original languageEnglish
Article number0899764019873965
Pages (from-to)399-423
Number of pages25
JournalNonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020

JEL classifications

  • o31 - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives


  • abduction
  • capabilities
  • disability nonprofit
  • researcher-in-residence
  • social innovation


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