Transformative Social Innovation

Publication: Working/Discussion PaperWU Working Paper

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This paper presents transformative social innovation as a specific type of social <br/>innovation which attempts avoiding the trap of being used by the neoliberal <br/>mainstream. Unfortunately, utilizing social innovations to strengthen the "human face of <br/>neoliberalism" has become a real threat since the Barroso Commission has embraced social innovation as a panacea to solve the social crisis resulting from the financial <br/>breakdown in 2008. In this approach, social innovation has increasingly been reduced to a recipe of fostering social entrepreneurship and creating quasi-markets (Jenson, 2015, <br/>p. 101), thereby promoting an "enabling welfare state" which uses the creativity and personal commitment of its citizens (Bureau of European Policy Advisors, 2010: 7). In <br/>current social innovation policies, attention focuses on the space of manoeuvre of deliberate agency, often by social entrepreneurs or "change maker", to implement <br/>"piecemeal changes" in the short run, like improving language skills of migrants or <br/>reintegrating of long-term unemployed into the labour market. Nobody can object to "doing more with less" in the form of cost-and resource efficient responses in times of <br/>ecological crisis and fiscal constraints. Nor can one oppose incentives for active <br/>citizenship in a "participation society". However, these efforts have become increasingly <br/>problematic, as a one-sided concern with measureable social impact, offering quick and visible solutions, has impeded to reflect on the deeper causes of the current multiple <br/>crises. But without understanding causes, agency can neither grasp important dimensions of a problem nor identify potentials. It, therefore, tends to remain <br/>ineffective. This recalls the "old saying that 'when it comes to practicality, nothing beats <br/>a good theory" (Danermark, Ekström, Jakobsen, & Karlsson, 2005, p. 187f) - and a good theory of capitalist modernisation is prerequisite for all types of emancipatory agency. <br/>In this paper, I will first quickly present attempts at elaborating a more radical <br/>version of social innovation that aims at tackling causes, including unequal power relations and systemic elements of capitalist market economies. Frank Moulaert and his <br/>colleagues, the research project TRANSIT and Mangabeira Unger offer different analyses for identifying the transformative potential of social innovations. Based on these contributions, I will present my understanding of transformative social innovations, grounding it in Karl Polanyi's The Great Transformation, critical realism and <br/>transdisciplinarity.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationVienna
PublisherWU Vienna University of Economics and Business
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series

NameSRE - Discussion Papers

WU Working Paper Series

  • SRE - Discussion Papers

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