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SI-DRIVE - Social Innovation: Driving Force of Social Change


Key words: innovation

Projektlaufzeit: 01.01.2014 - 31.12.2017


Project funding:

European Union – 7th Framework Programme


Project description (short):

The SI DRIVE project will pull theory and praxis of Social Innovation together by proposing both a European and global mapping of social innovation practices, based on a coherent methodology, and the development of the empirically tested foundations of social innovation, conceptualised as a means to empower people, reduce poverty gaps and influence on-going societal changes towards ‘smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.


Co-operation partner:


Project goals:

In a nutshell, scientific research, interactive communication with relevant networks of stakeholders and communities, the analysis of pertinent policy areas and concluding recommendations for policies and practice, will be guided by the following four objectives and expected outcomes

  1. To determine the nature, characteristics and impacts of social innovation as key elements of a new paradigm of innovation (strengthen the theoretical and empirical base of social innovation as part of a wider concept of innovation that thoroughly integrates social dimensions)
  2. To map, analyse and promote social innovations in Europe and world regions to better understand and enable social innovations and their capacity for changing societies
  3. To identify and assess success as well as failure factors of SI in seven particular policy areas, supporting reciprocal empowerment in various countries and social groups to engage in SI for development, working towards Europe 2020 targets and sustainable development (e.g. Millenium Development Goals (MDG)).
  4. To undertake future-oriented policy-driven research, analyse barriers and drivers for SI; develop tools and instruments for policy interventions (SI experimentation, incubation, ‘SI Manual’).

Generally, the concept of social innovation needs a stronger theoretical grounding from a practical as well as a scientific perspective. The theoretical assertions and improvements will be applied, tested and continually developed by means of sound empirical data and case studies in seven major policy areas: (1) education, (2) employment, (3) environment and climate change, (4) energy, (5) transport and mobility, (6) health and social care, and (7) poverty reduction.

Research in these policy areas will be carried out for all EU Member states, supplemented by regional trend studies including major world regions: (1) Russia,(2) North America, (3) South America, (4) Australia/New Zealand, (5) Asia, (6) South Africa, (7) Middle East, (8), Near East.

Cross-cutting themes (related to the Europe 2020 Strategy and Flagship Initiatives) will be addressed in each policy area and region: Financial resources, ICT and social media, social entrepreneurship and the social economy, gender, equality and diversity, governance (including regional development and OMC/Open Method of Coordination), innovation networks, demographic change and migration.


Project description (long):

SI-DRIVE extends knowledge about social innovation (SI) in three major directions:

Integrating theories and research methodologies to advance understanding of SI leading to a comprehensive new paradigm of innovation.
Undertaking European and global mapping of SI, thereby addressing different social, economic, cultural, historical and religious contexts in eight major world regions.
Ensuring relevance for policy makers and practitioners through in-depth analyses and case studies in seven policy fields, with cross European and world region comparisons, foresight and policy round tables.
SI-DRIVE involves 15 partners from 12 EU Member States and 10 from other parts of the world. The approach adopted carefully interlinks the research process to both the complexity of the topic and the project workflow:

First, cyclical iteration between theory development, methodological improvements, and policy recommendation:
Second, two mapping exercises at European and global level. Initial mapping will capture basic information about 1000+ actual successful and failed social innovations from a wide variety of sources worldwide, leading to a typology of SI (testing the SI perspectives proposed by the BEPA report) and using this to examine the global SI distribution. Subsequent mapping will use the typology to focus on well documented SI, leading to the selection of 10 cases each for in-depth analysis in the seven SI-DRIVE Policy Fields.
Third, these case studies will be further analysed, used in stakeholder dialogues in 7 policy field platforms and in analysis of cross-cutting dimensions (e.g. gender, diversity, ICT), carefully taking into account cross-sector relevance (private, public, civil sectors), and future impact.
The outcomes of SI-DRIVE will address all objectives required by the Call, cover a broad range of research dimensions, impacting particularly in terms of changing society and empowerment, and contributing to the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy.


Methodical approach:

A theoretical analysis will first provide a general depiction of how social innovation resonates within the wider frameworks of existing innovation theory and research, the concepts and perceptions of social change, and of societal and policy development. Subsequently, empirical research will be applied to classify what can be observed in social reality into a typology of social innovation. Empirical research comprises seven policy fields, and in four European and eight culturally different world regions.

Two major mapping exercises are foreseen at European and global level. The first will provide an overview of various types of social innovations in the seven policy areas. The second will include in-depth and detailed case studies of specific innovations in the policy areas (separately looked at the European and the world regions). The result will provide access to new intelligence about the variety of social innovation approaches in different parts of the world by practitioners, researchers and policy makers. Building on theoretical and empirical findings, foresight methodology will be applied to ensure that conclusions lead to well-grounded policy recommendations, based on attentive analysis of existing innovations.

SI-DRIVE will become innovative in its research procedures because of a cyclical approach in the form of iteration loops between the theoretical and empirical stages. Accordingly, significant parts of establishing an integrated theory of social innovation will be delivered through inductive appraisal and re-structuring of empirically obtained data.


Scientific Coordinator

Foto von Prof. Dr. Jürgen Howaldt Prof. Dr. Jürgen Howaldt,

Telefon: +49 231 755-90261

Project Coordinator

Foto von Antonius Schröder Antonius Schröder,

Telefon: +49 231 755-90283


Foto von Dr. Christoph Kaletka Dr. Christoph Kaletka,

Telefon: +49 231 755-90287