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Theories of Social Innovation

Danielle Logue

As we grapple with how to respond to some of the world’s most pressing problems, such as inequality, poverty and climate change, there is growing global interest in ‘social innovation’ as a potential solution. But what exactly is ‘social innovation’? This book describes three ways to theorise social innovation when seeking to manage and organize for both social and economic progress.
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Chapter 5: Social innovation: morality, markets and theories of impact

Danielle Logue


In this chapter, in seeking to both bring to the fore and better theorize the fundamental relationship between social innovation, values and morality and implicit notions of ‘doing good’ and ‘being good’, I return to historical works of Adam Smith and early conceptions of morality in ‘economy’ and ‘society’. I also consider more recent work (comparatively) in economic sociology and organizational theory that examines morality in markets and the construction of moral legitimacy. In the second part of this chapter I take a different turn as I begin to explore how these theories and notions of social innovation and social value can be invoked in decision-making. I consider phronesis as a rich and relational approach to morality and decision-making, and so helpful in theorizing settings and applications of social innovation. Using this approach, I suggest that articulating ‘theories of impact’ may support theoretical and empirical exploration of social innovation and that social innovation also be considered in practice as a process of moral-relational decision-making.

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