Harbinger Consultants

Culture + Complexity + Change

RESEARCH | Transformative Social Innovation

Through my research into Sustainability Transitions, I’ve found a European Union project examining Transformative Social Innovation (TRANSIT). The project is a multi-partite research project that aims to “develop a theory of transformative social innovation, by studying how networks of social entrepreneurs and families of social innovation projects contribute to systemic societal change.” In a paper by Alex Haxeltine, Flor Avelino, Julia Wittmayer, René Kemp, Paul Weaver, Julia Backhaus and Tim O’Riordan titled Transformative Social Innovation: A Sustainability Transitions Perspective on Social Innovation, the authors propose “Social innovation is re-conceptualised in relation to systemic change, drawing upon a transitions perspective and emphasizing the important roles of: empowerment, transformative discourses and game-changing developments”.

Principally, the project aims to build a new theory of social innovation, arguing that more research is required given the policy positioning of social innovation in the EU and the complexity and intractability of many social issues, including major ‘game-changing’ events, such as the financial crisis. The transformative dimensions of social innovation include “broad changes in societal discourses, issue framings, values, behaviours, habits and participation rates alongside structural, infrastructural, institutional and organisational changes”. The research emphasises several areas: governance, social learning, funding and monitoring.

The background paper makes for inspiring reading, offering some frameworks and ways of thinking about social innovation, while also scoping sustainability transition and social transformation.


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