Foundations of Constructing the Pattern of Social Innovation

So far, thoughts to distinguish between different types of social innovation have been only occasional attempts by European projects. In this article, based on the experimental results of the SI-DRIVE project, the basic characteristics of a category are presented that distinguish between different types of social innovation according to their relationship with the official system or the socio-cultural environment in which they operate.

The necessity of classifying social innovations

Innovation can be diverse, including technological or at the organizational or workplace level, or it may be characterized as creative or incremental. One of these innovations is social innovation, which is among the main examples of innovation. This domain can specify different types based on the theoretical and experimental analysis of SI-DRIVE.

Despite the growing public and academic interest in social innovation in the past decades, efforts to classify different types of social innovation have remained limited to discrete efforts by European research projects. A more popular example is BEPA’s three-level separation, which addresses social innovation in the context of social needs, social challenges, and systemic change. This problem is partly due to the fragmented landscape of social innovation concepts.

A precise definition of social innovation, which is clearly distinguished from other forms of innovation, is a prerequisite for determining the types of social innovation within these conceptual boundaries.

The SI-DRIVE project was started with the aim of developing the structures of a category of social innovation. On the one hand, this classification is based on SI-DRIVE’s definition of social innovation as a new combination of social practices, and on the other hand, it distinguishes different types of social innovation based on their relationship with social change. Therefore, these first steps can be seen as initial steps towards a complexity-reducing classification to understand which social innovations are most effective for social change and which are not. Considering the diversity of social innovation activities around the world, the goal is not to create a central and general category, but to provide the context for a category that can be answered to this specific question.

In addition to using SI-DRIVE’s definition of social innovation as a frame of reference, the categorization approach presented here is based on SI-DRIVE’s visual results from global mapping and in-depth case studies.

The concept of classification of social innovation and its types

This article starts with the assumption that the world of social innovation has many different types. However, the term “type” itself is not a very clear concept. This word is related to different concepts such as ideal types, empirical types, structural types or examples. The various uses of this term show that the term is not limited to “grouping” and is also used instead of the term “class” or “category”. The main confusion here is that this term is usually used interchangeably with the term “classification”. Taxonomy can be considered as a special type of taxonomy, which is particularly distinctive in the way they are constructed. In fact, the classification related to social sciences is proposed as a multidimensional conceptual classification and it is different from other forms of classification such as biological classification which is based on empirical data. Also, while classifications focus on grouping items into homogeneous sets, taxonomies are based on the concept of ideal types—types created with respect to a specific predicted outcome. The purpose of classifications is to measure the conformity or deviation of real variables with respect to ideal ones. Thus, taxonomies allow specifying non-linear relationships between structures and explaining complex phenomena.

Henceforth, the SI-DRIVE classification approach is introduced as a useful tool and an enriching contribution to the development of a comprehensive theory of social innovation. The theoretical foundations of SI-DRIVE and the data collected in two empirical phases provide to analyze and group social innovations in different ways. Next, a SI-DRIVE taxonomy approach is introduced using ideal types to distinguish between the multiple ways social innovations interact with the formal system (or socio-cultural environment).

Social change through system innovation

The results of SI-DRIVE show that the broader (global), regional, national, political and cultural context of projects should be taken into account. This background is reflected in the abstract formal systems (education, health, transport, energy, employment, environment), which determine the limits and possibilities of social innovations in terms of development, scaling, dissemination and organization, and ultimately the processes of social change. promotes Empirical results, especially in-depth case studies, show that there are four different ways for social innovations to interact with the system and use it as a category for social change.

Social innovation and its interaction with the formal system: Four ideal types of social innovations have arisen from interaction with the system. Three types cooperate with the system. Here, social innovations may appear inside or outside the system or form a hybrid connection. A type is completely isolated from the system and acts as either friend or potential enemy.

The proposed categorization includes four ideal types of repair, modernization, conversion, and separation, which can take different forms of interaction or distancing oneself from the system. This category considers social change as a game between social innovation and the formal system with institutions, formal agents and routine procedures. Therefore, to understand social change, it is important to look at the system’s response when faced with a social innovation or a new social practice.

In the first “transformative” type, social innovations change the system radically. System transformation through social innovation is often present as a hidden agenda in projects, but not as realistic or proactive. However, there are examples such as Uber or AirBike, as well as the micro-economy and car sharing, which have a significant market impact. To transform a system, we must achieve a certain mass of measurement, the context must have led to many imitations, and the imitation flows must have led to new social practices at the macro level and led to social change.

Example: transformative social innovation
Agrosocialism has innovated community capacity development strategies, with direct participation from rural farming families. organizational structure based on central circles formed by families,

There are associative groups organized by product, process or service, united associative personalities, sectors organized by micro-regions, regional federations, and finally the national agro-solidarity confederation.

In the second type of “modernization”, social innovations preserve the original identity of the system. Modernization of the system looks at the improvement of existing structures. This includes improving and complementing, for example, health, education and employment using digital solutions. For example, telemedicine such as Smart Elderly Care (China) or Care (Russia) provides the possibility of providing optimal and effective home treatment services for the elderly, a digital service that elderly people can use to contact medical professionals in their conditions. emergency or need to use medical information. Another example of modernizing an existing system (e.g. education) in different responsibilities is the creation of comprehensive structures for continuous learning (HESSENCAMPUS, Germany) in adult and vocational schools, educational institutions and different public responsibilities to manage these institutions from the learner’s perspective.

The third type of social innovation, called “repair”, does not challenge the system as a whole, but deals with the repair of sub-units. System repair is essentially the most visible type on the SI-DRIVE map, often driven by grassroots activities and focusing on specific system gaps or failures and vulnerable groups. For example, in the field of education, there are a few groups that opt out of the system and are looked after by citizenship candidates: “Lernhaus” (Austria) offers educational programs for adult immigrants, as compulsory education is not officially a responsibility. . Other activities focus on programs related to children with structural problems (with an immigration background), such as “Tausche Bildung für Wohnen” (Education for Housing Exchange) in Germany. “Abuelas Cuentacuentos” (Nanaes who tell stories) is an example from Argentina that, with the help of elderly volunteers (nanas), improves the insufficient reading ability of boys and girls, and launched a program that expands the intergenerational dialogue and gives a prominent role to the elderly.

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