The International Handbook on Social Innovation
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The International Handbook on Social Innovation

Collective Action, Social Learning and Transdisciplinary Research

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.
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Chapter 1: Social innovation: intuition, precept, concept, theory and practice

Collective Action, Social Learning and Transdisciplinary Research

Frank Moulaert, Diana MacCallum and Jean Hillier


Reading and talking about social innovation, as the authors of this chapter have done for many years, do not necessarily make its scientific meaning unambiguously clear. In our opinion, the lack of clarity about the term ‘social innovation’ can be attributed not only to its evolving analytical status but also to its over-simplistic use as a buzzword in a multiplicity of policy practices associated, for example, with the rationalization of the welfare state and the commodification of sociocultural wellbeing. The appropriation of the term by ‘caring liberalism’, in one of its new incarnations, has added to a Babel-like terminological confusion. For example, several of the roll-out neoliberalization strategies, like ‘new governance’ and ‘experimental reregulation’, if not critically examined, could be considered as forms of social innovation (Peck 2013). Social innovation (SI), appropriately utilized, is a driver of interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity in scientific research whose epistemological and methodological stances are in continuous development.

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