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 3: Social innovation, social economy and social enterprise: what can the European debate tell us?

Collective Action, Social Learning and Transdisciplinary Research

Jacques Defourny and Marthe Nyssens


Organizations corresponding to what we now call ‘social enterprises’ have existed since well before the mid-1990s when the term began to be increasingly used in both Western Europe and the United States. Indeed, the third sector, be it called the non-profit sector, the voluntary sector or the social economy, has long witnessed entrepreneurial dynamics which resulted in innovative solutions for providing services or goods to persons or communities whose needs were neither met by private companies nor by public providers. However, for reasons which vary from region to region, the concept of social enterprise is now gaining a fast growing interest along with two closely related terms, namely ‘social entrepreneur’ and ‘social entrepreneurship’. Social innovation, or at least innovation to provide answers to social needs, seems to be at the heart of the fast developing literature around those ‘SE concepts’.

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