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.

Chapter 4: Social innovation in an unsustainable world

Abid Mehmood and Constanza Parra

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 this chapter we discuss social innovation and sustainable development as two approaches that can jointly contribute to the formulation of more harmonious human-environment relationships to address the problems of an unsustainable world. Sustainable development is a multidimensional approach that considers the social, economic, environmental, cultural and institutional aspects of human-nature interaction. However, this multidimensionality can be a weakness, as policymakers and practitioners tend to artificially disconnect its key ingredients into separate standalone ‘pillars’. We believe that a social innovation perspective to sustainable development can help overcome this disconnectedness. Social innovation in this context relates to how individuals, groups and communities can take action in response to the problems of unsustainable practices and unsatisfied social needs while also focusing on the challenges of environmental degradation and climate change. As such, social innovation offers a perspective to help develop sites for grassroots movements and mobilization across different scales (see Part III of this handbook for some instructive case studies). However, social innovation literature has in general been inattentive towards issues related to sustainability, which has often been considered an implicit objective of any socially innovative action. We believe that the sustainable development agenda should be made more explicit in social innovation research, policy and actions.

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