Understanding Social Innovation as an Innovation Process

2018 – In this TNO-report the authors reflect on their research (the method and the results) on 82 casestudies out of the EU project: ‘SI-drive, Social innovation, driving force of social change 2014-2017’ (SI-dive). Social innovation exemplifies experiences that are developed in the field of mutual aid and solidarity, and stress social value rather than business profit.



In SI-drive an international research team collected 1,005 cases of social innovation across the globe. They were spread over seven policy fields: Education, Employment, Energy, Transport , Poverty, Health and Environment. From those 1,005 cases 82 were selected for in-depth case study.



These 82 cases were re-analysed in a secondary analysis using Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA). The purpose of this initiative is to contribute to the mapping out of the innovation landscape: how are these social innovations developing; is there a resemblance with the ‘innovation journey’ (Van de Ven et al., 2008) of innovations in technology/business? The innovation journey is a process model that makes a distinction between the initiation, developmental and implementation/termination period of innovations; it looks at drivers and barriers, like innovation managers, investors, setbacks, adaptation, infrastructure. The authors operationalised this model, its periods and variables (in seven new variables) and applied them to the process of social innovation, to gain insight in the dynamics of these rather new practices of (social) innovation and in the character of collaboration between actors.



The results show that out of 128 possible combinations of the seven constructed variables six combinations have the highest chance to result in adoption of the social innovation. None of those variables is a necessary nor a sufficient condition for adoption. While differing ‘paths lead to Rome’, no assurance can be given that ‘anything goes’, because the six empirical paths limit theoretical options.

The implication for practitioners is to study the six successful combinations and steer their social innovation initiatives into the direction of any of those combinations that fits best with their own practice.



Oeij, P.R.A.; W. van der Torre, S. Vaas, S. Dhondt (2018): ‘Understanding Social Innovation as an Innovation Process’, TNO-report number R18049.

The report can be downloaded via the site of SI-drive: https://www.si-drive.eu/?p=3557



Theme: Innovation & Innovation capacity

Sector: n.a.

Source: research report, casestudies