The OECD defines social innovation as ”the design and implementation of new solutions that imply conceptual, process, product, or organisational change, which ultimately aim to improve the welfare and wellbeing of individuals and communities.” Based on this definition, social innovations can, normatively, be understood as innovations with positive effects on the common good. In this context, social innovations are often (implicitly) understood as a complement to technical innovations. Accordingly, social innovations represent a “repair approach” to map social needs and socially compensate for the consequences of technological innovation.

Social innovations can be distinguished from “classical” innovations on several dimensions, which can be seen below:

Due to its multidimensional nature, the delimitation of social innovation can be unclear. Essentially, any technological innovation can be considered “social” when viewed in terms of its impact on society. Alternatively, if the focus is placed on promoting the common good, then any type of civic engagement could be categorised as a form of social innovation. 

A myriad of actors  

The landscape of actors involved in social innovation is diverse and, in part, has been studied by organisations such as Technopolis Group (for example, Social Business Initiatives) and others. It can be structured according to various dimensions:  

The relevance of social innovation stems from its twofold approach. First, it expands the traditional understanding of innovation activities by including non-profit actors who prioritise the common good. Second, it emphasises the societal changes that result from these innovations, underscoring the broader impact and implications for the wider community. 

Measuring social innovations 

Frequently, induced changes resulting from social innovations are multi-dimensional and unintentional, making them challenging to measure and evaluate. The actual realisation of the promised benefits of these innovations remains a subject of ongoing research.

Examples of attempts to measure social innovation include the project si-metrics or, conducted by Technopolis jointly with its partner ISIconsult, the accompanying research to the funding programme “Society of Ideas”, commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research


Warnke, Philipp et al., 2016: Opening up the innovation system framework towards new actors and institutions. Fraunhofer ISI Discussion Papers Innovation Systems and Policy Analysis No. 49. Karlsruhe: Fraunhofer ISI. 


Alla artiklar Alla nyheter