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 21: Research strategies for assets and strengths based community development

Collective Action, Social Learning and Transdisciplinary Research

Nola Kunnen, Diana MacCallum and Susan Young


Among the fields that link the satisfaction of human needs to empowerment and social-economic change is the tradition of community development. This chapter considers how social innovation research can both contribute to and be informed by a particular set of community development approaches which emphasize recognition and mobilization of existing skills, networks and knowledge within local communities – rather than cataloguing the problems they face – as the key principle guiding research and development activities. These approaches, referred to broadly as ‘assets and strengths based community development’, can contribute to social innovation research for the satisfaction of human need. They draw on a variety of theoretical and practical traditions, and resist any strong delineation between scholarship and practice. That is, assets and strengths based development approaches have research strategies within their practice which link general and local relations and conditions to knowledge to enable action. The strategies most commonly used derive from qualitative, critical action research methodologies (Craps et al. 2004; Kemmis and McTaggert 2005) and appreciative inquiry methods (Dick 2004, 2006; McNamee 2004), methods which we believe resonate strongly with the concerns of social innovation research as understood in this handbook (see also Gibson-Graham and Roelvink 2009).

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