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Social innovation : concepts, research fields and international trends

Authors: Howaldt, Jürgen and Schwarz, Michael
Publication date: 2010
Keywords: social innovation, theory

In light of the increasing importance of social innovation, this study looks at the theoretical concepts, areas of empirical research and observable trends in the field of social innovation. This trend study starts with an overview of the current situation and the perspectives of socio-scientific innovation research that have greatly contributed to the development and spread of an enlightened socio-scientific understanding of innovation. Against the backdrop of clear paradoxes and confusion in prevailing politics of innovation, the contours of a new innovation paradigm are becoming visible and causing social innovation to grow in importance. This is accompanied by an exploration of the question of what (new) roles social sciences can play in analyzing and shaping social innovation. The study looks at the future fields of research and research questions and explores the possible contribution that social innovation can make in working through global dilemmas. At the same time, the theoretical concept of social innovation outlined in the study is a precondition for the development of an integrated theory of socio-technological innovation in which social innovation is more than a mere requirement, side effect and result of technical innovation. Only by taking into account the unique properties and specifics of social innovation is it possible to make the systemic connection and interdependence of social and technological innovation processes comprehensible [Authors’ abstract].


Howaldt, Jürgen and Schwarz, Michael (2010) Social innovation : concepts, research fields and international trends, Aachen, International Monotoring (IMO).

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