Social innovation: Contested understandings of social change

Cornelius Schubert*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

    1 Citation (Scopus)


    Social innovation is often framed as an alternative and in opposition to dominant entrepreneurial understandings of technological innovation. In these cases, the term social innovation denotes bottom-up and beneficial processes of social change. The chapter will trace the emergence of this specific understanding of social innovation and how it became popular in academic and policy discourse over the last 20 years. I argue that the popularity of social innovations in the policy arena rests on an instrumental notion that strongly resembles the dominant entrepreneurial understandings of technological innovation in line with Schumpeter. This however, curtails the analytical potential of social innovation for the study of social change. Rather than following the pro-innovation bias of technological innovation, social innovations also provide opportunities to focus on processes of social change in which novel solutions are explored in order to maintain the status quo in the light of larger societal transformations.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationHandbook on Alternative Theories of Innovation
    PublisherEdward Elgar
    Number of pages16
    ISBN (Electronic)9781789902303
    ISBN (Print)9781789902297
    Publication statusPublished - 12 Oct 2021


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