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 9: Social innovation: a territorial process

Collective Action, Social Learning and Transdisciplinary Research

Barbara Van Dyck and Pieter Van den Broeck


In a keynote speech in Brussels in 2011 launching the Pilot Initiative ‘Social Innovation Europe’, José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, referred to familiar discussions that define social innovation as new ways to address unmet social needs. After that, president Barroso linked social innovation to sustainable resource management; to creating behavioural changes towards more responsibility of individuals; and concluded with linking social innovation to smart, sustainable and inclusive growth (Barroso 2011). The speech is in no way exceptional or surprising but is interesting however, for the way it illustrates how social innovation has recently become embedded in a discourse that approaches development issues as de-territorialized management questions. Social innovation is addressed as something that can be ‘done’; as if social innovation becomes a ‘thing’, a process in the best case, that can be separated from its context. In this chapter, in contrast, we argue that social innovation, as a way to foster social cohesion, is an inherently territorialized process. Its study, therefore, is necessarily territorialized as well. To demonstrate this argument, we explore the origins of different social innovation strands and explore how territory has been addressed in different social innovation approaches, to compare and contrast them.

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