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Transformative Social Innovation

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  • Novy, Andreas

Abstract

This paper presents transformative social innovation as a specific type of social innovation which attempts avoiding the trap of being used by the neoliberal mainstream. Unfortunately, utilizing social innovations to strengthen the "human face of neoliberalism" has become a real threat since the Barroso Commission has embraced social innovation as a panacea to solve the social crisis resulting from the financial breakdown in 2008. In this approach, social innovation has increasingly been reduced to a recipe of fostering social entrepreneurship and creating quasi-markets (Jenson, 2015, p. 101), thereby promoting an "enabling welfare state" which uses the creativity and personal commitment of its citizens (Bureau of European Policy Advisors, 2010: 7). In current social innovation policies, attention focuses on the space of manoeuvre of deliberate agency, often by social entrepreneurs or "change maker", to implement "piecemeal changes" in the short run, like improving language skills of migrants or reintegrating of long-term unemployed into the labour market. Nobody can object to "doing more with less" in the form of cost-and resource efficient responses in times of ecological crisis and fiscal constraints. Nor can one oppose incentives for active citizenship in a "participation society". However, these efforts have become increasingly problematic, as a one-sided concern with measureable social impact, offering quick and visible solutions, has impeded to reflect on the deeper causes of the current multiple crises. But without understanding causes, agency can neither grasp important dimensions of a problem nor identify potentials. It, therefore, tends to remain ineffective. This recalls the "old saying that 'when it comes to practicality, nothing beats a good theory" (Danermark, Ekström, Jakobsen, & Karlsson, 2005, p. 187f) - and a good theory of capitalist modernisation is prerequisite for all types of emancipatory agency. In this paper, I will first quickly present attempts at elaborating a more radical version of social innovation that aims at tackling causes, including unequal power relations and systemic elements of capitalist market economies. Frank Moulaert and his colleagues, the research project TRANSIT and Mangabeira Unger offer different analyses for identifying the transformative potential of social innovations. Based on these contributions, I will present my understanding of transformative social innovations, grounding it in Karl Polanyi's The Great Transformation, critical realism and transdisciplinarity.

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  • Novy, Andreas, 2017. "Transformative Social Innovation," SRE-Discussion Papers 2017/05, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business.
  • Handle: RePEc:wiw:wus009:5619
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    Cited by:

    1. Jordi Roca Jusmet & Emilio Padilla Rosa, 2021. "Globalización y responsabilidad en los problemas ecológicos," Revista de Economía Crítica, Asociación de Economía Crítica, vol. 31, pages 1-18.

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