1 November 2018

Research pick: Guiding research into social innovation - "Social innovation: what do we know and do not know about it"

Anderson Sasaki Vasques Pacheco and Karin Vieira da Silva of the Centro Universitário de Brusque in Santa Catarina, Brazil, Maria João Santos of ISEG (the Lisbon School of Economics and Management), Portugal, have endeavoured to create a scientific framework for the most relevant research outputs on social innovation.* They looked at more than one thousand papers to outline the historical evolution of social innovation studies, the scientific fields that have done the most research on this theme as well as those works with the greatest influence over subsequent research. The result is a map of this field and how it has changed over the years.

The team points out that while there has been an increased interest in studying social innovation in recent years, the resulting heterogeneous research output is difficult to assess. Moreover, this diversity of research type and output has perhaps hindered the development of a coherent paradigm for the understanding of social innovation.

“Currently, any researcher wishing to embark on studying this theme would have to wade through a tide of articles with multiple definitions and various means of analysis of distinct and different aspects of social innovation,” the team laments.

With this in mind, their efforts could provide an integrated vision of the scientific field and so allow research to move forward much more effectively. They explain that the main contribution of their present work derives from the guidance it might provide to those hoping to carry out research in this field by identifying which articles and theoretical conceptualisations are the most relevant in their associated fields of knowledge.

Pacheco, A.S.V., Santos, M.J. and da Silva, K.V. (2018) ‘Social innovation: what do we know and do not know about it‘, Int. J. Innovation and Learning, Vol. 24, No. 3, pp.301-326.

*Social innovation is defined in Wikipedia as “new strategies, concepts, ideas, and organizations that aim to meet social needs resulting from working conditions, education, community development, and health.”
Its objectives are to extend and strengthen society using open source methods and techniques, innovations with a social purpose, such as activism, online volunteering, microcredit, distance learning, and more.

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