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Prof. Dr. Jürgen Howaldt – Scientist Photo of Prof. Dr. Jürgen Howaldt

+49 231 755-90261

Further contact data


Link to the ORCID iD of Prof. Dr.Jürgen Howaldt

Career & Key Activities


Prof. Dr. Jürgen Howaldt, born 1960, is the director of Social Research Centre Dortmund (Sozialforschungsstelle Dortmund), TU Dortmund University and professor at the Faculty of Economics. He is an internationally renowned expert in the field of social innovation. Together with Michael Schwarz he developed a concept of social innovation based on social theory. In his research conducted together with a group of researchers at TU Dortmund University (e.g. Dmitri Domanski, Christoph Kaletka, Ralf Kopp, Antonius Schröder, Jürgen Schultze, Marthe Zirngiebl et al.) he elaborates on distinct properties of social innovation and stresses the necessity of developing a concept that is suitable for empirical research. In his recourse to Tarde’s social theory he widens a perspective which was narrowed to economic and technological innovations by Schumpeter and after him by the sociology of technology, to include the wide variety of social innovations, which are about new social practices.

In his concept, social practice theories are helpful in order to better understand social innovations, as they allow to identify the social dynamics of processes of change. In the first global mapping of social innovation initiatives within the EU-funded research project SI-DRIVE (Social Innovation – Driving Force of Social Change), (which has used this new model as a theoretical ground), his research provides empirical insights into the current setting of on a global scale. His concept is also a precondition for an integrative perspective on innovation and a comprehensive (social) innovation policy.

He has cooperated with German as well as European policy-makers and has presented his concept of social innovation around the globe. He worked as an expert of the German Federal Chancellor in the Dialog for the future (2011) and was invited to the 2nd Deutschlandforum of Angela Merkel in 2015.

Major expertise in

  • innovation studies and social innovation
  • organisation development and management concepts
  • cooperation management and regional development


After his studies in the social sciences at the Universities of Bielefeld and Duisburg, Howaldt became a researcher at the Social Research Centre Dortmund (Sozialforschungsstelle Dortmund), one of the largest and most traditional institutes of social sciences in the field of labour and innovation in Germany, in 1989. In 1993, he became the coordinator of the research field “Work and Organisation” at the institute. He completed his PhD on the Role of Sociology in processes of organisational development at the University of Dortmund in 1996. Alongside his work at the institute, he worked as a consultant for companies. In 1996 he founded the SI Consult company, together with some colleagues.

After becoming director of the Social Research Centre Dortmund in 2002, he focused on his research on new management concepts and the future of work and qualified as a university lecturer at the University of Bremen (2003).  In 2004 he became Honorary Professor at the faculty of Economics and Social Sciences at the University of Dortmund. After the Social Research Centre became part of the TU Dortmund University in 2007, Jürgen Howaldt was appointed professor at the Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences (since 2018 Faculty of Economics).


Jürgen Howaldt started his academic career in the field of work and organisation. His focus was on the implementation of new management concepts, such as lean production, teamwork or knowledge management in companies. He laid a strong focus on the development of work and the role of social science in processes of organisational development, on one hand and the management of social networks, on the other.

Since 2010, his research has been focussing intensely on the concept of social innovation. Together with Michael Schwarz, he developed a concept of social innovation based on social theory:

“A social innovation is new combination and/or new configuration of social practices in certain areas of action or social contexts prompted by certain actors or constellations of actors in an intentional targeted manner with the goal of better satisfying or answering needs and problems than is possible on the basis of established practices. An innovation is therefore social to the extent that it, conveyed by the market or "non/without profit", is socially accepted and diffused widely throughout society or in certain societal sub-areas, transformed depending on circumstances and ultimately institutionalized as new social practice or made routine. As with every other innovation, "new" does not necessarily mean "good" but in this case is "socially desirable" in an extensive and normative sense. According the actors' practical rationale, social attributions for social innovations are generally uncertain.”

Social innovations in the sense of new social practices have been emerging in recent years as an object of both research and practice. They are exerting an influence on people’s lives in a variety of ways. They change the way we live together, work, handle crises and make the most of opportunities. Likewise, they are driving different societal sectors and cross-sectoral networks and individuals.

A growing consensus among practitioners, policy makers and the research community shows that technological or business innovations alone are not capable of overcoming the social, economic and environmental challenges modern societies are facing. A vast and growing number of social innovation initiatives all over the world show the need to understand better what social innovations can achieve and how they can be deployed best. According to Howaldt, Social Innovation focuses on changing social practices to overcome societal challenges, meeting (local) social demands, and exploiting inherent opportunities in better ways than done before, referring to the different context specificities, being more than social entrepreneurship and different from pure technological or business development. Such a concept of Social Innovation is broad enough to encompass its whole variety and potential, and clear enough to distinguish Social Innovation from other concepts like technological, business or open innovation.

Other Activities

Howaldt has cooperated with German as well as European policy-makers. Together with national and international experts he developed policy declarations (e.g. the ‘Vienna Declaration’, ‘Dortmund / Brussels Position Paper on Workplace Innovation’, ‘Erklärung Soziale Innovationen für Deutschland’) to promote a social innovation policy. He worked as an expert of the German Federal Chancellor in the Dialog for the future (2011) and was invited to the 2nd Deutschlandforum of Angela Merkel 2015.

In 2011, he was one of the organizers of the first global research conference on Social Innovation “Challenge Social Innovation” in Vienna. He was then involved in the organization of the biannual global Research Conferences that took place in London (2013), Vienna (2015) and Brussels (2017). From 2014 until 2017 he was the Scientific Coordinator of the EU funded global research project SI-DRIVE.

Howaldt participated in many high-ranked conferences in Latin America like the Foro de Innovación social in Bogota (2012), La Innovación social para Chile (2015) and the Seminario de Inovacao Social in Brazil (2018). Together with Dmitri Domanski, he published articles and books about the increasing importance of social innovation in Latin America (especially in Chile).

He gave lectures and chaired seminars at many universities in Europe and beyond (St-Gallen University, Swinburne University of Technology, University of Sydney, University of Twente, Waterloo University, Unisinos University Porto Alegre, State University of Santa Catarina, Campinas University, University of Talca etc.) and presented his work at Summer Schools and workshops.

Affiliation / Advisory boards

He is Affiliate of SIERC (Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Research Centre, Massey University, New Zealand) and was guest researcher at the Swinburne University in Melbourne (2018). Since 2017, he has been chair of the European School of Social Innovation (ESSI), which is an important part of the global social innovation research community. The ESSI has been founded together with Josef Hochgerner and other colleagues in 2011. Since 2018, Jürgen Howaldt has been representing the TU Dortmund University in the EU-SPRI Forum.

He is member of many committees and advisory boards (e.g. Expert group of the German Rector’s Conference “Innovation und Transfer”).

Selected Presentations

Research Communities and Networks

  • Global Research Conferences on Social Innovation in Vienna (2011, 2015), London 2013, and Brussels (2017)
  • ISIERC Conferences in London (2011), Melbourne (2017) and Heidelberg (2018)
  • EU-SPRI Conferences in Lund (2016), Vienne (2017), Paris (2018)
  • International Sociological Forum/Congress in Brisbane (2002), Buenos Aires (2012), Yokohama (2014), Toronto (2018)
  • International Wellbeing at Work Conference, Manchester 2012, Amsterdam 2016
  • Congresses of the RLDWL network, Montreal (2008) and Beijing (2010)

Conferences and Summer Schools

  • Herrenhausen Conference ‘The New Role of the State for Emergence and Diffusion on Innovation’ (2019)
  • Pathways to Impact from SSH Research, Vienna 2018
  • Work Research Conference, University of Tampere - Finnish Association of Work Life Research, Tampere 2018
  • Seminário Internacional - Inovação Social em Políticas Públicas, Brasilia (2018)

  • Soziale Innovation - Erfahrungen, Kontroversen, Perspektiven, Olten 2018
  • CrESSI - Final Conference, Oxford University 2018

  • Transit Final Conference, Rotterdam 2017
  • SIX Summer School: Social Innovation in Divided Societies, Bogota 2016
  • Congresso de Inovacao Brasil-Alemanhe, Sao Paulo 2016
  • 10 anos Universidade Federal do ABC, Sao Paulo (2016)

  • Kongress „Innovationen für die Gesellschaft“, Berlin 2016
  • 15. Petersburger Dialog, Russland und Deutschland im Angesichts globaler Herausforderungen, St. Petersburg 2016
  • German Center for Research and Innovation, New York 2015
  • Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences - Trans-Atlantic Platform, Ottawa 2015
  • IMISCOE 11th Annual Conference, Madrid 2014
  • Collogue International du CRISES. La transformation sociale par innovation sociale, Montreal 2014
  • II. European School of Social Innovation, San Sebastian 2013
  • Foro de Innovación social, Bogota (2012)

  • Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Conference (SIERC), Auckland 2011
  • Alpbach Technology Forum, 2010


Reinhard Mohn Preis 2016 - Jürgen Howaldt erklärt soziale Innovationen (German)

Interview: "Getting to the core of social innovation" (PDF)


Selected Publications

Jürgen Howaldt published books and articles in journals and books with reference to different aspects of social innovation. He is co-editor of the European Journal of Workplace Innovation and the Atlas of Social Innovation.

Theory of (Social) Innovation

Case Studies and Global Mapping

Social Innovation in Latin America

Social Innovation Policy

The Role of Social Sciences in Innovation Processes

  • Jürgen Howaldt, Ralf Kopp: Shaping Social Innovation by Social Research. In: Hans Werner Franz, Josef Hochgerner, Jürgen Howaldt (eds.): Challenge Social Innovation. Potentials for Business, Social Entrepreneurship, Welfare and Civil Society. Springer, Heidelberg/New York/Dordrecht/London 2012, 43-56.
  • Jürgen Howaldt: New Pathways to Social Change – Creating Impact through Social Innovation Research. In: fteval Journal for Research and Technology Policy Evaluation, 2019.

Social Innovation at the Workplace (Workplace Innovation)

Atlas of Social Innovation – New Practices for a Better FutureDownload

Social Innovation in Latin America: The Chilean CaseDownload



Theoretical approaches to Social Innovation – A Critical Literature ReviewDownload

Challenge social innovation Potentials for business, social entrepreneurship, welfare and civil societySee details