The Evolution of Social Innovation
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The Evolution of Social Innovation

Building Resilience Through Transitions

Edited by Frances Westley, Katherine McGowan and Ola Tjörnbo

In a time where governments and civil society organizations are putting ever-greater stock in social innovation as a route to transformation, understanding what characterizes social innovation with transformative potential is important. Exciting and promising ideas seem to die out as often as they take flight, and market mechanisms, which go a long way towards contributing to successful technical innovations, play an insignificant role in social innovations. The cases in this book explore the evolution of successful social innovation through time, from the ideas which catalysed social and system entrepreneurs to create new processes, platforms, projects and programs to fundamental social shifts in culture, economics, laws and policies which occurred as a result. In doing so, the authors shed light on how to recognize transformative potential in the early stage innovations we see today.
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Chapter 5: The legalization of birth control in North America

Nino Antadze and Jaclyn Blacklock


This case considers the evolution of the constructed social phenomena surrounding the legality of birth control use and dissemination from the 1700s through to the present time. The case shows how social conditions and concerns, technological advances and legal rulings served to open up windows of opportunity for social entrepreneurs to pursue an adjacent possible – those new realities that are now, but were not previously, acceptable due to a change in present conditions. The rivalry between those who fought for the innovation and those who fought against is at the core of this case. The ability to capitalize on a window of opportunity is strongly associated with the strength of the coalition, the group’s organization, their financial and social resources and their relative power and reputation. Incremental attempts to pursue an adjacent possible most often succeeded when windows of opportunity were discovered and explored. Otherwise, no matter how organized, attempts to create change tended to be met with resistance, hostility and legal action.

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