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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Introduction: the institutional space for social innovation

Collective Action, Social Learning and Transdisciplinary Research

Diana MacCallum


One of the enduring questions for social innovation (SI) research concerns the relationship between the socially innovative actions that take place ‘on the ground’ and the broader institutional and policy environments in which such actions happen. It is a relationship that may take many forms, both positive and negative, as many of the chapters in this book illustrate. The state can be seen both as a conservative social force and as a primary provider of services which meet the needs of citizens, especially of deprived groups and persons. It is an arena within which many individuals enact daily resistance to the exclusionary forces of late capitalism – as such, it can be a socially innovative actor in its own right. And there is no straightforward causality between a ‘good’ political-institutional environment and successful social innovation, nor any consistent process through which socially innovative actions become institutionalized (for good or ill) either at the local or at higher scales.

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