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Local social innovation and welfare state restructuring: analysing their relationship


  • Stijn Oosterlynck
  • Yuri Kazepov
  • Andreas Novy
  • Pieter Cools
  • Tatiana Sarius
  • Florian Wokuvitsch


This paper is concerned with local social innovation in the field of poverty reduction. We argue that local social innovation aimed at poverty reduction should be discussed in the context of the ongoing restructuring of the welfare state in Europe and debates about the future of social policy, paying particular attention to institutional features such as the territorial organization of the welfare system and changes in the welfare mix. Rather than seeing local social innovation as a new paradigm for social intervention that can potentially replace the welfare state, we see local social innovation as a wave of initiatives that is part and parcel of an ongoing spatio-institutional restructuring of welfare states, leading to a more complex rather than a completely different welfare mix.We start this paper with a general definition of social innovation as an innovation that is innovative both in its goals and means and then develop a more customised definition for the field of poverty reduction. We do so by discussing three core characteristics of social innovation in this area, namely its approach of poverty as a multidimensional and relational phenomenon, its critique of bureaucratic and centralized welfare institutions and its place-based character. This leads us to define local social innovations in the field of poverty reduction as locally embedded practices, actions and policies that enable socially excluded and impoverished individuals and social groups to satisfy basic needs for which they find no adequate solution in the private market or institutionalized macro-level welfare policies.In a final part of the paper, we build on this customized definition to analyze the relationship between social innovation and macro-level welfare state policies. We show how the spatio-institutional restructuring of welfare states in recent decades have created many points of contact between macro-level welfare policies and local social innovations and that recent and that social innovation has recently emerged on the European social agenda. Finally, by way of identifying issues of interest for empirical research on the relationship between social innovation and welfare state, we look at how local social innovations organize social interventions differently from conventional welfare state policies and social investment strategies.

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  • Stijn Oosterlynck & Yuri Kazepov & Andreas Novy & Pieter Cools & Tatiana Sarius & Florian Wokuvitsch, 2015. "Local social innovation and welfare state restructuring: analysing their relationship," ImPRovE Working Papers 15/15, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.
  • Handle: RePEc:hdl:improv:1515

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Caterina Ruggeri Laderchi & Ruhi Saith & Frances Stewart, 2003. "Does it Matter that we do not Agree on the Definition of Poverty? A Comparison of Four Approaches," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 31(3), pages 243-274.
    2. Risto Heiskala, 2007. "Social Innovations: Structural and Power Perspectives," Chapters,in: Social Innovations, Institutional Change and Economic Performance, chapter 3 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    3. Pol, Eduardo & Ville, Simon, 2009. "Social innovation: Buzz word or enduring term?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 38(6), pages 878-885, December.
    4. Jamie Peck & Nik Theodore & Neil Brenner, 2013. "Neoliberal Urbanism Redux?," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 37(3), pages 1091-1099, May.
    5. Frank Moulaert & Farid Sekia, 2003. "Territorial Innovation Models: A Critical Survey," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 37(3), pages 289-302.
    6. Peter Taylor-Gooby, 2005. "Pervasive Uncertainty in Second Modernity: an Empirical Test," Sociological Research Online, Sociological Research Online, vol. 10(4), pages 1-1.
    7. Bob Jessop, 2001. "Institutional re(turns) and the strategic - relational approach," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 33(7), pages 1213-1235, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Stijn Oosterlynck & Andreas Novy & Yuri Kazepov & Gert Verschraegen & Tatiana Saruis & Fabio Colombo & Pieter Cools & Roberta Cucca & Bernhard Leubolt & Carla Weinzierl, 2016. "Towards a more effective governance of socially innovative policies – First insights from the case studies," ImPRovE Working Papers 16/11, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.

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    Social innovation; welfare state; poverty reduction; social investment; welfare mix; rescaling; social policy;

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