Transformative social innovation and its multifactorial nature

نوآوری اجتماعی تحول آفرین و طبیعت چندعاملی آن

Transformative social innovation and its multifactorial nature
Discussions about social innovation – both in academic fields and in the general public – have a strong tendency to relate social innovation to civil society. For example, Malgan and colleagues have defined it as “innovative activities and services that have been developed and expanded through organizations whose main purpose is social and have reached the goal of meeting social needs and are mostly developed and expanded through these organizations.” . By considering social innovation as changes in social relations that involve new ways of doing, knowing, organizing, and codifying, we separate it from its origin, cause, motive, or type of agent. This allows us to consider various fields of empirical phenomena as social innovation, including for example the global Ecovillage movement (community orientation), the Impact Hub social entrepreneurship network (market orientation), as well as the international phenomenon of participatory budgeting. (tendency to the government).

Transformative social innovation
In the project “TRANSIT” or “Theory of Transformative Social Innovation”, we are interested in Transformative Social Innovations (TSI). TSI refers to the process by which social innovation contributes to fundamental social transformations.

In the framework of TRANSIT, we carried out detailed studies on 20 international networks (for more information, see the TRANSIT project infographic), which included more than 100 local actions in 25 countries, mainly in Europe and Latin America. One of the observations in the comparative analysis throughout the studies is that all cases include multiple types of departments and agents with different roles. Next, we introduce the multifactorial perspective, which is a heuristic framework for disentangling factors, their roles, and their (variable) relationships in social innovation.

A multifactorial perspective
The multi-agent perspective (MaP) differentiates between four categories of agents in three axes: 1) informal-official, 2) profitable-unprofitable goals and 3) public-private:

Government: non-profit, formal, public
Market: official, private, profitable purposes
Society: private, informal, non-profit
The third part: an intermediate part among others
The third sector includes the non-profit sector, but also includes many intermediary organizations that move between the boundaries of profit and non-profit, private and public, formal and informal. This sector includes phenomena such as social entrepreneurship, “non-profit” social enterprises and cooperative organizations.

The multi-agent perspective also distinguishes between the levels of sectors, individual agents (such as entrepreneurs, consumers, policy makers) and associations (such as organizations, groups). At the sector level, distinctions are made based on characteristics and public “logics” (eg, formal vs. informal, profitable vs. non-profit goals, public vs. private). Departments and other associations are typically known as “agents”, meaning that they are represented as entities that have agency (for example, “the government is responsible”). While sectors alone can be thought of as ‘agents’, they can also be thought of as specific ‘institutional logics’ in which particular collective or individual agents operate and interact. From this perspective, constituencies are sites of struggle and/or cooperation between individuals (such as government as an interaction between voters and policy makers). Individuals often play multiple roles in different departmental logics; For example, a policy maker is also a neighbor, a consumer, and possibly a volunteer in his spare time (see the figure at the level of individual agents for more information).

A multifactorial perspective on transformative social innovation
We claim that social innovation can be initiated by any type of agent, at any level of aggregation, with any type of reason or motivation. At each level, agents may be involved in actions (projects, programs, collaborations) and networks that – motivated or unmotivated – contribute to social innovation. In addition, variable relationships between factors and variable boundaries between different institutional logics represent transformative social innovation itself.

Numerous social systems (such as in the fields of energy, housing, education, health, nutrition, and transportation) in Western societies have been influenced by the state-market two-sector logic in recent decades, while the influence of society and the third sector has been neglected (for For more information, see the figure on training the role of government-markets and PPPs). Increasingly, welfare states have outsourced their services to the market, which has led to the creation of various types of “Physical Public-Private Enterprises” (PPPs) and neoliberal discourses in which the bureaucratic logic of the state is combined with the logic of the economic market. , have been increasingly used in all aspects of life and society.

However, along with the interest in social innovation, there is renewed interest in the third sector as “a way out of the stagnation that has resulted from decades and more of ‘management’ reforms in the public sector” [7]. This sector is expected to combine the efficiency of private companies with the social commitment of public services and democratize the relationship between owners, consumers and workers. We are also seeing a new rise in “community-based” initiatives, with government increasingly calling on the “community” to take over public services. This is particularly clear in discussions of welfare state reforms such as the “Big Society”, where governments restructure their duties and responsibilities towards their citizens. This raises a number of challenges and questions about what to do in a world that is logical

The government and the market have dominated the metropolises, how and to what extent “society” is supposed to be responsible. If we think about these things, as shown in the figure about the power struggle and politics, the “abandonment” by the state (welfare) in order to make room for society may lead to the pervasiveness of market logic (instead of society).

Considering transformative social innovation, it refers to a process where social innovation challenges, changes and/or replaces dominant macro institutions [8]. From a multi-agent perspective, this raises questions about how and to what extent social innovation challenges, changes and/or replaces dominant institutional logics within and between government, market, society and the third sector.

Comparison and discussion of three cases of social innovation from a multifactorial perspective
We examine here three distinct cases: networks that work with social innovation and have transformative ambitions, representing different orientations to the underlying institutional logic in which they operate:

Impact Hub network of social entrepreneurs (more market orientation) [3]
Ecovillage global network (more community oriented) [3]
Participatory budgeting (more oriented towards the government) [3]
The MaP graphic on Impact Hub, Ecovillages and Participatory Budgeting provides a brief summary of all three networks.

Comparing the three studied networks using MaP, it is observed:

First, they all have considerable variation in the multi-factorial and institutional meaning. Most of them are officially recognized as non-profit associations or foundations and are recognized as a part of the non-profit sector. However, they also operate at the intersection of different sectors and institutional logics, redefining and re-tracing sector boundaries. As a result, sectoral boundaries are not presented as something fixed – they are highly ambiguous, shifting, contested, and continuously flavored by these networks.

Secondly, these networks challenge the existence of existing social relations and reshape the roles of individual agents. For example, participatory budgeting challenges the role of communication between citizens and local governments, Impact Hub strengthens the role of social entrepreneurs, and the Ecovillage community reconfigures the relationship between the individual and the community. By fulfilling different roles in sectors, individuals act as essential nodes that translate, expand and communicate social innovations across sectors and locations.

Thirdly, these networks have a transformative capacity that arises by challenging, changing and/or replacing institutional boundaries. In the case of Impact Hub, the boundaries of market and non-profit logics are challenged, in ecovillages the boundaries between formal housing regulations and informal community settlements are challenged, and in participatory budgeting, the boundaries between local governments and citizens are challenged. This leads to exposure in coincidences between actions and authorities and often leads to legal or political debates about compatible settings. From this point of view, these networks play an important role in (re)institutional tastes (agreements). However, in doing so also line

There are network ideas (abuse) to allow analysis of the welfare state and budget cuts. It can be argued that the unintended effects of such role-playing weaken their transformative capacity, because these effects actually lead to the strengthening of a dominant and institutionalized current towards neoliberalism.

Many of the underlying crises and concerns about social innovation are related to unpleasant power differentials between different sectors and institutional logics. The logic of the government and especially the logic of the market have become very dominant in recent decades. With social challenges and trends such as the economic crisis and changes in welfare states, it seems that a “hybrid sector” is emerging that challenges existing institutional boundaries. It can be seen as an integrative and hybrid domain that involves joining and blending traditional boundaries by blurring and smoothing the boundaries between traditional logics, as well as adding new elements, roles and challenges from them.

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