Social Innovation Community in Retrospect – 4: Putting Transformation and Power Central in Research

After three exciting years, the Social Innovation Community project, aiming to strengthen, connect and grow existing social innovation communities, came to an end. What did we learn? The DRIFT team shares main insights and promising resources that resulted from our involvement in a series of five blogs. In yesterday’s blog – part #3 – we evaluated the urban social innovation experiments and co-creation processes of SIC. In part #4, written by Flor Avelino, Julia Wittmayer and Sarah Rach, we dive into hot topics in social innovation research: transformation and power.

In terms of facilitating a research community, the Social Innovation Community aimed to provide an overview of the current research landscape in Europe and beyond – the Research Landscape Report. DRIFT contributed a chapter on the sharing and collaborative economy and the overall report offers key information regarding those who work in different areas of social innovation, their research interests and the current status of their work. It covers next to the Sharing and Collaborative Economy also Public Sector Innovation, Digital Social Innovation, Intermediaries, Cities and Regions Development, Social Economy, Community Led Innovation and Corporate Social Innovation.

Next to taking stock, the Social Innovation Community also aimed to identify upcoming topics and future trends in social innovation research. To this end, DRIFT organised a ‘hot topic workshop’ on Empowering Social Innovation for Transformative Change. On the 17th of May, 27 critical thinkers and doers gathered in Amsterdam to discuss the role of power and empowerment in social innovation. The discourse of social innovation tends to be based on a belief in human agency to change the world for the better. The more ‘dark’ and ‘unintended’ effects of social change tend to be underplayed, including the power struggles and inequalities that come with it. However, addressing power is a necessary condition to empower people to have transformative impact.

During the workshop, participants explore the role of power and empowerment in social innovation through various interactive presentations and working sessions, including: Julia Wittmayer on insights from the Transformative Social Innovation (TRANSIT) research project (see slides here), Flor Avelino on power and empowerment theories (see slides here), Firoez Azarhoosh on budget monitoring in the Indische Buurt, an interactive session with the acclaimed participatory drama approach ‘Theatre of the Oppressed’ by Luc Opdebeeck from Formaat, and a discussion on the role of prefigurative social movements and translocal networks by Lara Monticelli.

These interaction sessions were followed by a writing workshop facilitated by Frank van Kesteren from The Broker Online. A delicate topic like power makes it all the more important to ask: who is your intended audience and what is the best form to describe the power relations that come into play? Three of the written articles were edited and published by The Broker Online:

Do you want to read more about insights that resulted from the Social Innovation Community project? Read the first blog, in which Julia Wittmayer and Sarah Rach explain how the project enhanced connections between science and society, the second blog, in which Marijke de Pous, Marieke Verhagen and Giorgia Silvestri elaborate on the SIC exploration of theories on and design of social innovation education,the third blog in which Sophie Buchel and Giorgia Silvestri evaluate the urban social innovation experiments and co-creation processes of SIC, or continue with blog 5, in which Julia Wittmayer looks forward: how can we apply the lessons learned? 

The research leading to the results mentioned in this blog has received funding from the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No. 693883, Social Innovation Community.

Do you want to learn more about the Social Innovation Community? Visit our project page.

June 27, 2019