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 10: Social sustainability: a competing concept to social innovation?

Collective Action, Social Learning and Transdisciplinary Research

Constanza Parra


This chapter connects social innovation to social sustainability as an aspect of dialogic governance for territorial development. After a critical analysis of the subaltern status of the social pillar in sustainable development, Section 10.2 examines the meaning of the social, drawing attention to the social embeddedness of sustainable development and to the role of ‘on the ground’ social interactions in steering sustainable development. It is argued that the social is not – as often depicted – the weakest pillar of the triad but the fundamental engine of the sustainability system. Section 10.3 goes a step further, reinforcing the social nature of sustainable development with the aid of social innovation theory, highlighting the two theories’ shared concern with governance, as well as their complementary role in encouraging an innovative logic of interactivity seeking a transformation in social relations oriented to define and satisfy human needs, on the one hand, and a more sustainable nature-society relationship, on the other. Socially innovative relations, social participation in governance and the production of alternative knowledge for decision-making are signalled as essential meeting points between these two approaches.

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