Table of Contents

The International Handbook on Social Innovation

The International Handbook on Social Innovation

Collective Action, Social Learning and Transdisciplinary Research

Elgar original reference

Edited by Frank Moulaert, Diana MacCallum, Abid Mehmood and Abdelillah Hamdouch

The contributors provide an overview of theoretical perspectives, methodologies and instructive experiences from all continents, as well as implications for collective action and policy. They argue strongly for social innovation as a key to human development. The Handbook defines social innovation as innovation in social relations within both micro and macro spheres, with the purpose of satisfying unmet or new human needs across different layers of society. It connects social innovation to empowerment dynamics, thus giving a political character to social movements and bottom-up governance initiatives. Together these should lay the foundations for a fairer, more democratic society for all.

General introduction: the return of social innovation as a scientific concept and a social practice

Frank Moulaert, Diana MacCallum, Abid Mehmood and Abdelillah Hamdouch

Subjects: business and management, social entrepreneurship, development studies, development studies, geography, human geography, innovation and technology, innovation policy, politics and public policy, public policy, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, sociology and sociological theory, urban and regional studies, regional studies, urban studies


In recent years, social innovation has become increasingly influential in both scholarship and policy. It is the conceptual foundation for community-based trusts, think tanks, corporate management practices and government funding programs in every continent, leading to a wide range of projects and international networks which recognize past failures of conventional service delivery to tackle poverty and social exclusion, and seek to promote new ways of doing things, grounded in the social relations and experiences of those in need. It is the great inspiration for many social movements, associations, bottom-up initiatives to claim improvements in their human conditions, their community life and their place in society. It has found a home in policy at the highest level, for example in the US Whitehouse’s Office for Social Innovation and Civic Participation, through the creation of the National Secretariat for Solidarity Economy in Brazil and in the European Commission’s Innovation Policy programmes. It has become a lead term for corporate social responsibility, business ethics and the revisiting of the role of social enterprise and the social economy in socioeconomic development. The growing importance of the idea reflects wide and profound dissatisfaction with recent directions and outcomes of ‘innovation’ in technology, markets, policy and governance systems, and particularly a sense – to remain polite – that the benefits of such innovations have not been distributed as generally or as equitably as they should (see Jessop et al., Chapter 8). This also holds for changes in socio-political regimes.