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”Research Landscape of Social Innovation” depicts topics, actors and networks in a young field of study

An increasing number of projects, conferences and research initiatives are addressing social innovation, establishing a new and highly dynamic research topic. Public sector innovation, intermediaries, corporate social innovation and others highlight different aspects of SI. This report draws the contours of the research landscape, refers to main actors, important publications and events, and shows the potential of social innovation as a transdisciplinary field of action.


In the report we take a look at nine different areas of social innovation (Social Innovation Research on Concepts and Theories, Public Sector Innovation, Digital Social Innovation, Intermediaries, Cities and Regions Development, Social Economy, Sharing and Collaborative Economy, Community-led Innovation and Corporate Social Innovation) which were identified as central thematic fields of SI research. The report, edited by Dmitri Domanski and Christoph Kaletka from TU Dortmund University,  provides an overview of the current research landscape in Europe and beyond and offers key information regarding those who work in these areas of social innovation, their research interests and the current status of their work.

These insights help to better understand what social innovation research is about, how it is organised through networks and communities and how it is related to practice in order to support the emergence of an inclusive social innovation research community which transcends European borders and research disciplines. The report demonstrates ongoing processes of community building in all thematic areas under review.

We can see that while social innovation as a field of research is strongly linked to practice, both social innovation research and practice themselves are still two relatively fragmented areas with insufficiently connected actors and networks. Diversity in social innovation research and practice enriches the debate and the development of the research field. However, it makes community building a challenging task. The report has confirmed that many of those who work on social innovation research still do not necessarily recognise themselves as part of this community.

Furthermore, we can see that social innovation research has generated a lot of valuable knowledge in order to help meeting societal challenges. Still, many efforts fall short in terms of impact, because the field of social innovation is still very much characterised by operating in silos. Drawing the (selective) picture of a Research Landscape helps to identify links and to support the formation of a more cohesive community of research working on joint initiatives, identifying common challenges and contributing to a better connection of social innovation research and practice.

The project Social Innovation Community (SIC) aims at creating a “network of networks” of social innovation actors, took place at the sfs in Dortmund. SIC is identifying, engaging and connecting actors including researchers, social innovators, citizens, policy-makers, as well as intermediaries, businesses, civil society organizations and public sector employees.

If you want to read more about the current state of social innovation in Europe and beyond, you can read the full report here.