Digital transformation of work: spillover effects of workplace innovation on social innovation


2021 – Three authors from the Netherlands contributed a chapter to the book ‘A Research Agenda for Social Innovation that was edited by Howaldt et al. This 6th. chapter is summarized below.


Two ideas

In this chapter, the authors set out two ideas. The first idea is that democracy in the workplace spills over into society and is necessary for ‘social innovation’ to flourish. The second idea is that ‘workplace innovation’, in the sense of quality of work and employee participation, encourages people to participate in social innovation in the community or in politics.

An important research question is therefore whether digitization increases or decreases the quality of work and employee participation and thus increases or decreases participation in the community and in politics.



‘Social innovation’ means the invention, development and implementation of new ideas to solve social problems; problems of individuals, groups or communities.

‘Workplace Innovation’ – as defined by the European Workplace Innovation Network (EUWIN) – concerns new and integrated interventions in the organisation of work, HR management, labour relations and supporting technologies.`


Contribution to the research agenda on social innovation

It is very important to understand the relationship between social innovation and the impact of digitisation of work and to identify the challenges for the research agenda in the field of social innovation.

The chapter starts with a discussion about the impact of democracy in the workplace and its relevance for social innovation. What follows is the definition of ‘active work’, how active work is designed and what its (hypothetical) relationship is with socially active behavior. The latter is important for social innovation. This relationship is further elaborated in this chapter.

The authors explain the importance of introducing work organisations that support active work (‘workplace innovation’).

Organisations can choose how they organise their work. The authors describe the options available to organisations in this area. They discuss what organisations can do to create active work and what stands in the way of making the decision to do so.

The risks and opportunities of the upcoming digitisation are also discussed. What is the impact of digital technology and the platform economy on the choice for (or the rejection of) workplace innovation and what are – in particular – the consequences for socially innovative behavior of citizens?

In this way, this chapter contributes to the Research Agenda for social innovation presented in this book. Developing new workplace practices will promote the development of new social practices and social engagement. This idea raises several research questions.


Ten research questions, two examples

The chapter lists 10 issues for the research agenda. For instance:

. Is digitisation pliable? How can digitisation be used in such a way that it promotes active work as well as social innovation?

. How can managers be made aware that quality of work is highly important to their business interests. How can they learn that quality of work is a social interest?



Dhondt, S., Oeij, P.R.A., & Pot, F.D. (2021). ‘Digital transformation of work: spillover effects of

workplace innovation on social Innovation’. In J. Howaldt, C. Kaletka, & A. Schröder (Eds.)

A Research Agenda for Social Innovation (pp. 99-116). Edward Elgar Publishing.