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‘Shaken, but not stirred’: six decades defining social innovation


  • Edwards-Schachter,Mónica


  • Wallace,Matthew



This paper examines the evolution in the conceptualization of Social Innovation (SI) under the assumption of SI as a trans-disciplinary construct which comprises a diversity of discourses from different fields and actors. We performed a comprehensive and systematic literature review along six decades (1950-2014), extracting definitions of SI through a search of 2,339 documents in various languages retrieved from Web of Science, SCOPUS and Google scholar. To guide the inductive analysis of pluri-vocal discourses we assume innovation to be a learning-based process, introducing the notion of social practice linked to its intertwined institutional and socio-cultural dimensions. We applied mixed qualitative methodologies, combining content analysis based on a social constructionist/interpretivist ontology with cognitive mapping techniques. Our findings identify some core and secondary elements underpinning two complementary perspectives (transformative and instrumental) of SI as scientific construct. They also point to a number of promising avenues for research towards the advancement of a socio-technical theory of innovation.

Suggested Citation

  • Edwards-Schachter,Mónica & Wallace,Matthew, 2015. "‘Shaken, but not stirred’: six decades defining social innovation," INGENIO (CSIC-UPV) Working Paper Series 201504, INGENIO (CSIC-UPV).
  • Handle: RePEc:ing:wpaper:201504

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Abdellilah Hamdouch & F. Moulaert, 2006. "New Views of Innovation Systems: Agents, Rationales, Networks and Spatial Scales in the Knowledge Infrastructure," Post-Print halshs-00285251, HAL.
    2. Martin, Ben R. & Nightingale, Paul & Yegros-Yegros, Alfredo, 2012. "Science and technology studies: Exploring the knowledge base," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(7), pages 1182-1204.
    3. Hoogendoorn, B. & Pennings, H.P.G. & Thurik, A.R., 2010. "What do We Know about Social Entrepreneurship: An Analysis of Empirical Research," ERIM Report Series Research in Management ERS-2009-044-ORG, Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM), ERIM is the joint research institute of the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University and the Erasmus School of Economics (ESE) at Erasmus University Rotterdam.
    4. Christopher Foster & Richard Heeks, 2013. "Conceptualising Inclusive Innovation: Modifying Systems of Innovation Frameworks to Understand Diffusion of New Technology to Low-Income Consumers," The European Journal of Development Research, Palgrave Macmillan;European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI), vol. 25(3), pages 333-355, July.
    5. Leydesdorff, Loet & Welbers, Kasper, 2011. "The semantic mapping of words and co-words in contexts," Journal of Informetrics, Elsevier, vol. 5(3), pages 469-475.
    6. Faridah Djellal & Faïz Gallouj, 2011. "Social Innovation and Service Innovation," Post-Print halshs-01113990, HAL.
    7. Mónica E. Edwards-Schachter & Cristian E. Matti & Enrique Alcántara, 2012. "Fostering Quality of Life through Social Innovation: A Living Lab Methodology Study Case," Review of Policy Research, Policy Studies Organization, vol. 29(6), pages 672-692, November.
    8. Paul Benneworth & Effie Amanatidou & Monica Edwards Schachter & Magnus Gulbrandsen, 2015. "Social innovation futures: beyond policy panacea and conceptual ambiguity," Working Papers on Innovation Studies 20150127, Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture, University of Oslo.
    9. Bengt-ake Lundvall & Bjorn Johnson, 1994. "The Learning Economy," Industry and Innovation, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 1(2), pages 23-42.
    10. Moulaert, Frank, 2000. "Globalization and Integrated Area Development in European Cities," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199241132.
    11. Andreas Reinstaller, 2013. "An evolutionary view on social innovation and the process of economic change," WWWforEurope Working Papers series 43, WWWforEurope.
    12. 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.
    13. Waltman, Ludo & van Eck, Nees Jan & Noyons, Ed C.M., 2010. "A unified approach to mapping and clustering of bibliometric networks," Journal of Informetrics, Elsevier, vol. 4(4), pages 629-635.
    14. repec:wfo:wstudy:47018 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:gam:jsusta:v:11:y:2019:i:2:p:522-:d:199205 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Marletto, Gerardo & Sillig, Cécile, 2019. "Lost in Mainstreaming? Agrifood and Urban Mobility Grassroots Innovations with Multiple Pathways and Outcomes," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 158(C), pages 88-100.
    3. repec:gam:jsusta:v:9:y:2017:i:12:p:2376-:d:123590 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Havas, Attila, 2016. "Recent economic theorising on innovation: Lessons for analysing social innovation," MPRA Paper 77385, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item


    social innovation; innovation process; collective learning; social practice; social change; technological innovation;

    JEL classification:

    • O35 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Social Innovation
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
    • O30 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - General

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