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 35: Framing social innovation research: a sociology of knowledge perspective

Collective Action, Social Learning and Transdisciplinary Research

Frank Moulaert and Barbara Van Dyck


If social innovation (SI) is about transformation of institutions, overthrowing oppressive ‘structures with power’, collective agency to address non-satisfied needs, building of empowering social relations from the bottom-up, one can indeed wonder what leads scientists, who often have a strong theoretical interest and occasionally suffer from forum phobia, to social innovation analysis and social innovation practice, as advisors, theorists, activists, technicians, etc.? Is it that social innovation scientists are aware that through their work of knowledge production they – consciously or unconsciously – defend or reinforce particular positions and interests in society? They seemingly make the choice to acknowledge the inherent positionality of (scientific) knowledge and make explicit their intention of knowledge production in the interest of marginalized or disempowered voices and with the purpose of social transformation. SI research is indeed about ‘changing the world’ through study, cooperation and shared intervention or collective action, often in a form of action research.

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