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Game changers and Transformative Social Innovation : the case of the economic crisis and the new economy

Authors: Avelino, Flor; Wittmayer, Julia; Haxeltine, Alex; Kemp, René; O'Riordan, Tim; Weaver, Paul; Loorbach, Derk and Rotmans, Jan;
Publication date: 2014
Keywords: economic crisis, Game-changers, new economy, Transformative Social Innovation

This paper was part of TRANSIT Deliverable D2.1 Game-changers & Transformative Social Innovation. Working paper, policy insights, lessons for facilitation tools and workshop report. Earlier versions have been presented at the TRANSIT Synthesis Workshop on “The role of Game-changers in Transformative Social Innovation” (1-2 September 2014, Rotterdam) as well as at the “5th International Conference on Sustainability Transitions. Impact and Institutions” (27-29 August 2014, Utrecht).

The paper discusses transformative social innovation, conceptualised as the process through which social innovation contributes to societal transformation. A conceptual heuristic is introduced that proposes five foundational concepts to help distinguish between different pertinent ‘shades’ of change and innovation: 1) social innovation, (2) system innovation, (3) game-changers, (4) narratives of change and (5) societal transformation. The paper elaborates on the background and meaning of each of these concepts, with references to existing literature in transition studies and social innovation research, and through empirical illustrations. The recent economic crisis is taken as an empirical example of a ‘game-changing’ macro-development, and it is explored how this economic crisis relates to other forms of change and innovation. A central hypothesis is that societal transformation is the result of specific ‘co-evolutionary’ interactions between game-changers (e.g. the economic crisis), narratives of change (e.g. ‘a new economy’), system innovations (e.g. welfare system reform), and social innovations (e.g. new exchange currencies or new design practices). The paper elaborates on this hypothesis and formulates challenges for future research.


Avelino, F.; Wittmayer, J.; Haxeltine, A.; Kemp, R.; O'Riordan, T. Weaver, P.; Loorbach, D. and Rotmans, J. (2014). Game changers and Transformative Social Innovation : the case of the economic crisis and the new economy (TRANSIT working paper ; 1) TRANSIT: EU SSH.2013.3.2-1 Grant agreement no: 613169.

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