Towards a theory of transformative social innovation: A relational framework and 12 propositions

B. Pel*, A. Haxeltine, F. Avelino, A. Dumitru, R. Kemp, T. Bauler, I. Kunze, J. Dorland, J. Wittmayer, M.S. Jørgensen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

53 Citations (Web of Science)

Abstract

This paper responds to the need in innovation research for conceptual clarity and solid theory on social innovation (SI). The paper conceptualizes SI as changing social relations, involving new ways of doing, knowing, framing and organizing, and theorizes transformative social innovation (TSI) as the process of SI challenging, altering, or replacing dominant institutions in a specific social-material context. Three advances towards TSI theory are proposed. First, we reflect epistemologically on the challenges of theory-building, and propose an appropriate research design and methodology. Middle-range theory is developed through iteration between theoretical insights and comparative empirical study of 20 transnational SI networks and about 100 associated initiatives. Second, we synthesize various innovation theories and social theories into a relational framework that articulates the distributed agency and institutional hybridization involved. Third, we formulate twelve propositions on the emergence of SI initiatives, on the development of SI ecosystems, on institutionalization processes, and on the historical shaping of SI. The paper ends with a critical assessment of the advances made, also identifying further challenges for TSI theory and practice.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104080
Number of pages13
JournalResearch Policy
Volume49
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020

JEL classifications

  • o31 - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives

Keywords

  • Critical assessment
  • Distributed agencies
  • Empirical studies
  • Empowerment
  • Engineering
  • Innovation process
  • Innovation research
  • Innovation theory
  • Institutional change
  • Iterative methods
  • Middle-range theory
  • Relational theory
  • Social innovation
  • Social innovations
  • Theory and practice
  • Transformative change
  • EVOLUTIONARY
  • INSTITUTIONAL LOGICS
  • TYPOLOGY
  • EMPOWERMENT THEORY
  • TRANSITIONS
  • FOUNDATIONS
  • SUSTAINABILITY
  • AGENCY
  • MULTILEVEL PERSPECTIVE
  • ECONOMY

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