12 most used Social Innovation Definitions

social innovation

Social innovation has increasingly gained interest throughout the years. Policymakers, academics and researchers, foundations and organisations and generally individuals share mutual interest on expanding their knowledge to address social issues.

Despite the interest and the increasing consideration of the term, there is a growing need for shared or common definitions of social innovation. I have gathered some of the most used definitions that you can find below.

  1. A novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just than existing solutions and for which the value created accrues primarily to society as a whole rather than private individuals. (Phills, Deiglmeier & Miller, 2008, p.36).

  2. Social innovation is an initiative, product or process or program that profoundly changes the basic routines, resource and authority flows or beliefs of any social system. (Westley, 2008).

  3. Social innovation refers to innovative activities and services that are motivated by the goal of meeting a social need and that are predominantly diffused through organizations whose primary purposes are social.  (Mulgan, 2006).

  4. By social innovation we mean both new things that work and existing knowledge applied in new ways to solve social problems. (Pearson, 2007, p. 7).

  5. Social innovation = application of a new idea or a new application of an existing idea that yields lasting social value, i.e. not just to the direct consumer, addressing a social need in a more effective way. (Leadbeater, 2008).

  6. We use the term ’social innovation’ to refer to new ideas (products, services and models) developed to fulfil unmet social needs. Many are supported by the public sector, others by community groups and voluntary organizations.  Social innovation is not restricted to any one sector or field. (Bacon, Faizullah, Mulgan & Woodcraft, 2008).

  7. The development and application of new or improved activities, initiatives, services, processes, or products designed to address social and economic challenges faced by individuals and communities. (Goldenberg, 2004).

  8. A social innovation as a significant, creative and sustainable shift in the way that a given society dealt with a profound and previously intractable problem such as poverty, disease, violence, or environmental deterioration.(Nilsson, 2003).

  9. Social innovation is not just about improving the innovative capacity of social organizations.  Rather, it is about innovations in our capacity to organize social and financial resources to achieve large-scale social impact. (Eric Young cited by Pearson, 2007).

  10. Transforming deeply rooted social problems by introducing new ideas, practices, policies, relationships and resources in the direction of greater resilience. (Plan Institute, 2009).

  11. The generation and implementation of new ideas about how people should organize interpersonal activities, or social interactions, to meet one or more common goals. As with other forms of innovation, the products resulting from social innovation may vary with regard to their breadth and impact.  At one end of this continuum, the development of of new ideas about social organization, or social relationships, might involve the creation of new kinds of social institutions, the formation of new ideas about government, or the development of new social movements…At the other end of the continuum, social innovation might involve the creation of new processes and procedures for structuring collaborative work, the introduction of new social practices in a group, or the development of new business practice. (Mumford, 2002).

  12. Perhaps it [social innovation] is one of those concepts that can only be framed and used as an analytical tool as well as one can but not exhaustively defined.  It goes without saying that the concept of social innovation provides not only a seductively topical, but also a positively wholesome counterweight to more technologically orientated literature.  The problem, however, is that when one presses harder to pin down the idea, its inherent appeal and the search for conceptual clarity and precision is tested by theoretical complexity, ambiguity and frustrating conceptual flexibility. (Sotarauta, 2009, p.623).

And of course there is Wikipedia!

Do you know any other we can add to the list? Which one do you like the most?

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