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Department of Social Sciences

SI-DRIVE - Social Innovation: Driving Force of Social Change

01/01/2014 - 12/31/2017

The SI DRIVE project will pull theory and praxis of Social Innovation together by proposing both a European and global mapping of social innovation practices, based on a coherent methodology, and the development of the empirically tested foundations of social innovation, conceptualised as a means to empower people, reduce poverty gaps and influence on-going societal changes towards ‘smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

European Union - 7th Framework Program

SI-DRIVE advances knowledge of social innovation (SI) in three main directions:

Integrating theories and research methods to improve understanding of SI and create a comprehensive new innovation paradigm. Conducting a European and global mapping of SI, taking into account different social, economic, cultural, historical, and religious contexts in eight major world regions. Ensuring relevance for policy makers and practitioners through in-depth analysis and case studies in seven policy areas, with Europe-wide and global comparisons, foresight, and policy roundtables. SI-DRIVE involves 15 partners from 12 EU Member States and 10 from other parts of the world. The chosen approach carefully links the research process to both the complexity of the topic and the project process:

First, cyclical iteration between theory development, methodological improvements, and policy recommendations: Second, two mapping exercises at the European and global levels. In the first mapping, basic information on more than 1000 actual successful and failed social innovations will be collected from a variety of sources worldwide, resulting in a typology of SIs (testing the SI perspectives proposed in the BEPA report), which will be used to study the global SI distribution. Next, the typology is used to focus on well-documented SIs, leading to the selection of 10 cases for in-depth analysis in each of the seven SI-DRIVE policy areas. Third, these case studies will be further analyzed, used in stakeholder dialogues in seven policy area platforms and in the analysis of cross-cutting dimensions (e.g., gender, diversity, ICT), carefully considering cross-sectoral relevance (private, public, and civil sectors) and future impacts. The results of SI-DRIVE will meet all the objectives called for in the call, cover a wide range of research dimensions, have a particular impact on societal change and empowerment, and contribute to the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy

In summary, the academic research, interactive communication with relevant stakeholder and community networks, analysis of relevant policy areas, and final recommendations for policy and practice are guided by the following four objectives and expected outcomes:

  1. Defining the nature, characteristics, and impact of social innovation as key elements of a new innovation paradigm (strengthening the theoretical and empirical basis of social innovation as part of a broader concept of innovation that takes full account of social dimensions)
  2. Mapping, analyzing, and promoting social innovation in Europe and world regions to better understand and promote social innovation and its ability to transform society
  3. Identify and assess success and failure factors of SI in seven specific policy areas, support mutual empowerment in different countries and social groups to engage in SI for development and work towards the Europe 2020 goals and sustainable development (e.g. the Millennium Development Goals).
  4. Conduct forward-looking policy-driven research, analyze barriers and drivers for SI; develop tools and instruments for policy interventions (SI experiments, incubation, SI "handbook").

In general, the concept of social innovation needs stronger theoretical grounding from both practical and scientific perspectives. The theoretical claims and improvements will be applied, tested, and continuously developed using sound empirical data and case studies in seven key policy areas: (1) education, (2) employment, (3) environment and climate change, (4) energy, (5) transport and mobility, (6) health and social care, and (7) poverty reduction.

Research in these policy areas is conducted for all EU Member States and complemented by regional trend studies, including the main world regions: (1) Russia,(2) North America, (3) South America, (4) Australia/New Zealand, (5) Asia, (6) South Africa, (7) Middle East, (8) Near East.

Cross-cutting themes (related to the Europe 2020 strategy and flagship initiatives) are addressed in each policy area and region: Financial Resources, ICT and Social Media, Social Entrepreneurship and Social Economy, Gender Equality, Equity and Diversity, Governance (including Regional Development and OMC/Open Method of Coordination), Innovation Networks, Demographic Change and Migration.

A theoretical analysis first presents in general terms how social innovation fits into the broader framework of existing innovation theory and research, concepts and perceptions of social change, and social and political development. Empirical research is then drawn upon to classify what can be observed in social reality into a typology of social innovation. The empirical research covers seven policy areas in four European and eight culturally diverse world regions.

Two major mapping exercises are planned at the European and global levels. The first will provide an overview of the different types of social innovation in the seven policy areas. The second will include in-depth and detailed case studies of specific innovations in the policy areas (considered separately for the European and world regions). The result will provide new insights into the diversity of social innovation approaches in different parts of the world by practitioners, researchers and policy makers. Building on theoretical and empirical insights, the foresight methodology will be applied to ensure that the conclusions lead to informed policy recommendations based on a thoughtful analysis of existing innovations.

SI-DRIVE will be innovative in its research procedures due to a cyclical approach in the form of iterative loops between the theoretical and empirical phases. Accordingly, significant parts of the construction of an integrated theory of social innovation will be delivered through inductive evaluation and restructuring of empirically obtained data.