Chapter 6: Social innovation: tensions in purpose and practice
In this concluding chapter, I examine three core tensions that are dominant in practitioner and policy discourse regarding social innovation: (1) managing hybridity; (2) measuring impact; and (3) governing collaborations. In contrast to earlier chapters that outline ways of theorizing social innovation, in this chapter I take a reverse approach and consider three empirical and practitioner areas of tension associated with social innovation and explore how to theorize to make both empirical and theoretical contributions. Managing hybridity is a central concern for the growing numbers of social enterprises globally, further complicated when traditional organizations (either private sector or not-for-profit sector) attempt to integrate social enterprises into existing structures. It raises issues of hybrid intensity, legitimacy and integration. Impact measurement is another global concern across sectors and organizations, and here I review social impact assessment and reporting, methods to compare social interventions and the emerging array of impact measurement tools. I suggest there is much opportunity in theorizing this central tension in social innovation by exploring the sociology of valuation and evaluation. In managing collaborations, I expand ideas of polycentric governance, inclusive innovation and public entrepreneurship, and also suggest conceptualizing ‘systems of social innovation’ to govern, coordinate and direct efforts towards specific social problems. After all, social innovation as a term itself emerged from practitioner literature. While some of these tensions are introduced in earlier chapters, here I examine each in detail, covering the empirical debates and suggestions for theorizing.
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