Author: Karsten Krüger
‘Social innovation’ has become a central term in the European Union’s policy and the respective social science research programs. However, the term is interpreted very differently, making it difficult to identify a common denominator. According to an EU report from 2013, there is little in common between the different approaches that use this term about what means ‘social innovation’.
This uncertainty and definitional inconsistency is the motive of this essay to expose examples to expose how different approaches understand social innovation, and, then, to work out, from a sociological perspective, a general definition separating clearly social innovation from the notions of social change and invention.
In the next step, the question will be studied to what extent the analytical concepts (landscapes, regimes and socio-technological niches), which were developed by social technology studies, are also suitable for analysing social innovations. By the example of organic agriculture, the essay explores their applicability, draws lines of convergence and suggests new research lines
It is argued that the concepts of the social technology studies require modifications in order to analyse processes of social innovation. It also points out that technology studies do not pay sufficient attention to the political aspects. Political science and the micro-political approach of organizational theory offer promising concepts for examining social negotiation processes in which different actors with different and often divergent interests influence the innovation process.