VOL. 1, NO. 1, PGS. 9–26


Social Innovation
A Transformation Factor?
Juan-Luis Klein

This essay takes up some sections of the introduction to the book L'innovation sociale, edited by Klein, J.-L., Laville, J.-L. and Moulaert, F. (2014).

Juan-Luis Klein is a Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Quebec in Montreal and Director of the Centre for Research on Social Innovations (Centre de recherche sur les innovations sociales —CRISES—).

This translation has been automatically generated and has not been verified for accuracy.

In recent years, numerous works —scientific, normative and journalistic— have been intensively promoting social innovation, arguing for its capacity to provide answers to the urgent problems facing our societies. Until a few years ago, few authors and research groups were working on this topic, and those who did so did so rather in the shadows. The subject did not provoke passions either in academia or in governmental bodies. No one could have foreseen the hype around social innovation today. How to explain the sudden attraction to the subject? The explanation is to be found in the economic and social crisis affecting the capitalist system, which is dragging on and is not finding effective solutions within the existing institutional framework.

This text seeks to approach social innovation in a reflective and analytical sense that goes beyond laudatory or anecdotal discourses, which give social innovation a limited, even caricatural, image. What is proposed here is an approach that considers that social innovation is neither limited to a recipe nor to a list of “good practices” that can be used to generate certain improvements in the situation of disadvantaged communities. In our approach, social innovation refers to civil society’s capacity for initiative, which is built through social interrelationships and collective action. Replication of successful experiences is not sufficient for the consolidation of such a capacity for initiative. In addition, changes in the social, economic and political contexts in which social actors are embedded must be introduced.

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