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SIC meets SI-DRIVE: Breakout Session on Social Innovation Research

Recent developments in social innovation research were discussed at the breakout session during the meeting of the Steering Committee of the project SI-DRIVE in Dortmund. Ten international experts took actively part in the event, which was conducted by Dmitri Domanski and Christoph Kaletka from TU Dortmund University - sfs.


On 2 September 2016, a breakout session on social innovation research took place in Dortmund during the meeting of the Steering Committee of the research project SI-DRIVE: Social Innovation – Driving Force of Social Change. It was organised in the context of the project Social Innovation Community (SIC) which aims at creating a ‘network of networks’ of social innovation actors. SIC will identify, engage and connect actors including researchers, social innovators, citizens, policy-makers, as well as intermediaries, businesses, civil society organisations and public sector employees.

One of SIC’s work packages is dedicated to social innovation research and is coordinated by TU Dortmund University. It aims to support the emergence of an inclusive social innovation research community in Europe and beyond by comparing different social innovation traditions and their involvement in different thematic areas, and identifying synergies. Building on existing networks, the project aims to further advance the field of social innovation as a whole in theory and practice. As far as social innovation research is concerned, SIC identifies, highlights and encourages discussions on the most pertinent topics, empirical results and methodologies shaping the field today. This reflects the increasingly differentiated social innovation research landscape, which consists of a variety of thematic networks. Currently, SIC is elaborating on a report of the social innovation research landscape which builds on different sources, such as desk research or expert discussions.

During the session, conducted by Dmitri Domanski and Christoph Kaletka from TU Dortmund University - sfs, ten international experts discussed recent developments in social innovation research and currently emerging hot topics. Some of the key results of the breakout session can be summarised as follows:

  1. Social innovation as a research topic is continuously growing in importance and has achieved acceptance as a scientific subject.
  2. In recent years, a broader and more comprehensive understanding of social innovation has been developed.
  3. Ambiguities of social innovation are still largely neglected as research topic and need further scrutinising.
  4. Contours of a global research community on social innovation have emerged which require improved communication, coordination and joint research objectives.
  5. Social innovation research needs to further improve its links to and its impact on policy and practice.
  6. In the upcoming years, social innovation research will be increasingly contributing to a more comprehensive innovation policy.

This breakout session was the first in a series of five which will be organised in the course the project. Breakout sessions are conceptualised as relatively brief and clearly structured expert workshops. Using this experimental setting, SIC seeks to gain additional insights beyond desk research or surveys. Furthermore, the sessions help to better link SIC to other ongoing social innovation projects and initiatives by sharing its concept, methodology and objectives, providing room for joint discussions and helping to draw a more coherent picture of social innovation research.