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 29: The linkages between popular education and solidarity economy in Brazil: an historical perspective

Collective Action, Social Learning and Transdisciplinary Research

Ana Cristina Fernandes, Andreas Novy and Paul Singer


We argue that social innovations often emerge due to a specific context and a unique historical path pursued by social actors. The Brazilian experience with popular education and solidarity economy which have inspired a lot of social movements all over the world has its roots in popular movements and a critical and innovative form of education that emerged from the 1950s onwards. It was related to libertarian and socialist movements worldwide, but has found a unique expression whose beneficial effects have materialized in innovative forms of bottom-linked institutionalizing, social learning, knowledge production and collective action. This chapter will apply a historical perspective on social innovation, stressing the importance of path dependency, context and history, in our case the social and political struggles in Pernambuco, a central Brazilian province during the colony, and afterwards in a long process of decline due to its dependency on sugar cane production.

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