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Sozialforschungsstelle Dortmund (sfs) advances Social Innovation in various networks, national and international research and action projects, as well as in a diversity of conferences and publications. The here presented activities provide a first overview:

Networks and Initiatives


Atlas Social Innovation - Practices for a Better Future Atlas of Social Innovation - Practices for a Better Future

Published in 2018, the book "Atlas Social Innovation - Practices for a Better Future" provides and extensive overview of social innovations worldwide. Leading experts share new insights in social innovation research and present role-model approaches in different socio-cultural environments.In 62 short articles, the Atlas of Social Innovation explores the colourful world of this emerging phenomenon.

It presents various types of Social Innovation in different world regions and policy fields like education, employment, environment and climate change, energy supply, transport and mobility, health and social care, as well as poverty reduction and sustainable development. It shows that public policy can play a creative role in creating suitable frameworks for social innovations, and argues that often alliances of civil society, the economy, science, and the public sector are the key to success.

The Atlas takes a unique approach in portraying experiences, theoretical considerations, and lessons learnt worldwide and across disciplines. It serves as a knowledge repository for the growing community of practitioners, policy makers and researchers and opens up new avenues to unfold the potential of social innovation to create new practices for a better future. The Atlas is available online at www.socialinnovationatlas.net.The website invites its users to download the whole book or selected articles and to propose future articles for a more complete global picture of social innovation.

Furthermore, it invites to discover the interactive "Map of Social Innovation" with more than 1.000 cases of social innovation around the world. The whole book, with its contributions from from Anne de Bruin, Kriss Deiglmeier, Agnès Hubert, Juan-Luis Klein, Frank Moulaert, Geoff Mulgan, Alex Nicholls, Frank Pot, Louise Pulford, Tonya Surman, Frances Westley and many more experts, is available as a download here. (PDF, 34,9 MB)





European School of Social Innovation (ESSI)European School of Social Innovation (ESSI)

The European School of Social Innovation (ESSI) was founded in October 2011 in the aftermath of the first global scientific conference on social innovation: Challenge Social Innovation, held in Vienna, 19-21 September 2011. ESSI considers the utmost significance of social innovations in the 21st century in enabling the socially beneficial utilization of the vast economic potential of the „knowledge society“, as part of society, to better serve distributive justice and braking the acceleration of social inequality.

Transformative science, trans-disciplinary research and professional practices are required to create new capacities in knowledge generation, knowledge diffusion and knowledge application, involving those who know how and others who know why. Combining analytical thought and practical doing requires innovative organisations, methods, networks and infrastructures in support of effective collaboration. ESSI shall serve as an umbrella organisation, a platform to stimulate, promote and develop co-operative activities, measures and projects of its members.

ESSI, as a School of Thought, considerably shapes concepts and activities in the field of social innovation, as it facilitates the collaboration between members that can form consortia to plan and execute projects of different kind. Yet through the backing by ESSI, single member organisations or even individuals may enjoy stronger positions in their social innovation activities.


International Projects And Initiatives


Logo vom Projekt SI-DRIVESI-DRIVE - Social Innovation: Driving Force of Social Change

The SI-DRIVE project (2014-2017) aimed at deepening knowledge about Social Innovation as a driver of social change. This knowledge helps to underpin policy actions of the EU, of other international organisations and of policy makers. The understanding of the concept and framework of Social Innovation leads to better designed and targeted policy support measures, and to more effective implementation and upscaling of social innovations. The project made an important contribution by developing and testing a comprehensive definition, which describes social innovation as a new combination or figuration of social practices. Using this analytical lens, the project consortium of 25 international partners mapped and compared over 1.000 cases of social innovation all over the world and selected 80 cases for an in-depth case study analysis. SI-DRIVE thereby has resulted in:

  • A better understanding of the relationship between policy and Social Innovation;
  • A better understanding of how social innovations can have an important role in societal transformations;
  • Clear evidence of the importance of policy support for social innovation;
  • Recommendations for policy makers at the national, EU and global levels, taking into account the  policy context.

Based on the developed theoretical framework and the empirical results the experts and partners of SI-DRIVE elaborated main policy recommendations summarised in a declaration.


Social Innovation Community (SIC)Social Innovation Community (SIC)

Taking areas of known social innovation activity - organised around ‘social innovation networks’ – The SIC project (2016-2018) strengthens, connects and expands existing social innovation communities - including public sector innovation, digital social innovation, intermediaries, social economy actors and more. Developing an enabling environment for social innovation that links actions across the whole field and supports the full exploitation of their potential is vital to addressing societal challenges both in Europe and globally.

While there is increasing interest for social innovation as a means of addressing societal challenges, there is also considerable variation in the extent to which different countries and regions have embraced social innovation. There are many research and policy projects and incubation and acceleration programmes with valuable outcomes but these are still largely disconnected. Thus, the overarching aim of this project is to create a ‘network of networks’ of social innovation actors.

This Social Innovation Community (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. The aims of such a community are to generate new social innovations, develop and scale up successful ideas to share and spread knowledge more effectively in order to improve research, practice and policymaking.



Social Innovation Community (SIC)SIKE – Social Innovation through Knowledge Exchange

The SIKE Project (2018-2020) responds to the need for Universities to become more proactive in driving social change through knowledge exchange and social innovation (SI). The SIKE project aligns very closely with existing initiatives and core missions of the participating organisations. All the participating Universities play an active role in researching, teaching or supporting social innovators within their community, often collaborating with them on projects. In addition, all the SI partners have worked extensively with the University partners – and others - looking to embed a SI ecosystem within their region. By focusing on knowledge exchange that specifically promotes social innovation and entrepreneurship, the SIKE project directly promotes equity, social cohesion, and active citizenship while enhancing creativity and innovation, including entrepreneurship, at all levels of education and training. Thus, this project aims to lay the foundations for a radical shift in knowledge exchange practice that embraces Social Innovation by adapting more conventional, commercial and process innovation to the social needs of communities. As such, SIKE both facilitates the exchange, flow and co-creation of knowledge and stimulates entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial skills of its participants and stakeholders while also developing new and innovative approaches to teaching and learning through its training programme and online tools.










Social Innovation Community (SIC)SISCODE - Society in Innovation and Science through CODEsign

The overarching aim of SISCODE (2018-2021) is to better understand co-creation as a bottom-up and design-driven phenomenon that is flourishing in Europe (in fab labs, living labs, social innovations, smart cities, communities and regions), to analyse favourable conditions that support its scalability and replication and to use this knowledge to cross-fertilise RRI (Responsible Research and Innovation) practices and policies. To reach this aim SISCODE will: run a European study to compare co-creation ecosystems and describe effective dynamics and outcomes of the integration of society in science and innovation; experiment with design as a new system of competences capable to support the development of implementable RRI and STI solutions and policies; and understand the transformations needed to embed co-creation in STI policy making, overcoming barriers and resistance to change and considering organisational transformation.





Social Innovation – Research and Policy of the Future- Towards a Comprehensive Innovation PolicySocial Innovation – Research and Policy of the Future- Towards a Comprehensive Innovation Policy

From October 24th to 25th, 2017, the Final Conference of the EU 7th Framework funded project SI-DRIVE was held successfully in Brussels, Belgium. The conference theme "Social Innovation – Research and Policy of the Future: towards a comprehensive innovation policy" brought together over 250 practitioners, researchers and policy makers from 44 countries in the field of social innovation and policy. Speakers underlined that the different and increasingly sound concepts of social innovation enable researchers to better understand the field in all its complexity.

With SI-DRIVE’s global and comprehensive mapping of socially innovative cases as a starting point, presenters and panelists challenged the community to deepen the knowledge in the policy fields, in societal sectors and the world regions in a next step. In line with the Social Innovation Community (SIC) project, the co-host of the event, participants called for a stronger collaboration of academics, practitioners and policy makers, suggesting to involve practitioners in research projects from the very beginning.

The impact of social innovation was another key issue of the conference. With more and more consolidated networks and their diverging rationales, it remains to be seen how social innovation can take effect on an even larger scale on the one hand, and appreciate and support small-scale solutions for distinct challenges on the other. One central aspect of the debate was the capability of social innovation to tackle critical challenges. Here, the SI-DRIVE consortium insisted that the potential of the whole society needs to be unlocked within a more comprehensive innovation strategy in order to improve the quality of life and create more opportunities and pathways to future wellbeing.

The conference also discussed concrete recommendations with regard to an appropriate innovation policy of the future. The SI-DRIVE Policy Declaration sets a framework for uncovering the potential of social innovations and their capacity to enable systemic social change, through new governance approaches and a better understanding and design of the eco-systems in which social innovations unfold.

Article: "250 participants discuss the future of social innovation at SI-DRIVE final conference"



National Projects And Initiatives:


KoSI-LAB: Kommunale Labore sozialer Innovation KoSI-LAB: Kommunale Labore sozialer Innovation

The project KoSI-Lab develops two municipal social innovation labs in the cities of Dortmund and Wuppertal, Germany. Urban social innovation labs are important intermediaries convening and facilitating cross-sector stakeholder groups to develop social innovation initiatives. Multi-stakeholder processes convening people from politics, municipal administrations, companies and civil society play a key role in advancing new solutions to urban problems. A driving force of the two innovation labs which KoSI-Lab develops are the involved municipalities, Dortmund and Wuppertal.








Innovationen für die Gesellschaft – Neue Wege und Methoden zur Entfaltung des Potenzials sozialer InnovationenKongress Innovationen für die Gesellschaft: Neue Wege und Methoden zur Entfaltung des Potenzials sozialer Innovationen

("Innovation for Society – New ways and methods to unfold the potential of social innovation")

The congress "Innovation for Society – New ways and methods to unfold the potential of social innovation" in Berlin (20.-21. September 2016) offered opportunities for international exchange between researchers and practitioners. Organised by the Sozialforschungsstelle Dortmund in cooperation with the Institut für Technikfolgenabschätzung und Systemanalyse (ITAS) of the Karlsruhe Institut für Technologie, the conference offered the various communities an opportunity to connect. Against this background  participants discussed the potential of Social Innovation in the four policy areas Employment, Health and Care, Spatial Development, as well as Energy and Climate Change. At the same time, new concepts and means to unlock this potential, such as Open Innovation and Co-Creation, Design Thinking, Social Innovation Labs and Transformative Research were tacked in expert workshops. While the potential of social innovations to overcome societal challenged in a diversity of sectors and policy field formed the focus of the congress, participants identified further areas of action and support. The workshop and conference topics are summarized in the accompanying conference-handbook (available in German).

















Erklärung: „Soziale Innovationen für Deutschland“
Decleration "Social Innovations for Germany"

The declaration "Social Innovations for Germany" („Soziale Innovationen für Deutschland“), which was signed by more the 100 prominent researchers, policy-makers, and practitioners in 2014, argues for an increased uptake of social innovations in solving societal challenges. The declaration‘s expectations and requirements form the result of an intensive participative process engaging actors from civil society, politics, business, and academia. The declaration was initiated by TU Dortmund University / Sozialforschungsstelle and EBS University of Economics and Law. Among others, the Centre for Social Investments and Innovations at Heidelberg University, Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, Fraunhofer IAO and Genisis Institute for Social Innovation and Impact Strategies participated in the process. After its publication, the declaration was sent to Chancellor Angela Merkel, and handed over to the Chairman of the German high-tech strategy’s Advisory Board, Prof. Andreas Barner.