Marianna d‟Ovidio eds.
Final Complete Report 15 June 2009 – DISSEM version August 15, 2009.
The complete D4 is available from the KATARSIS website http://katarsis.ncl.ac.uk/
The purpose of WP4 is to come to grips with different scientific approaches to social innovation,
social innovation and related concepts? Are their approaches epistemologically underpinned? Were
they interested in offering solutions to practical human problems? Can we identify a diversity of
routes leading to – and from! – social innovation research? How can we situate the approaches to
social innovation used by scientists in society as well as the science and practice communities in
which they have worked? These epistemological questions concern the interaction between culture,
ideology, science practice and social innovation research.
In order to answer these questions, we start from the wide array of socially creative strategies and
social innovation processes analysed in previous and current research projects, but also from the
theories and philosophies that underpinned or accompanied them. We try to discover the relations
between different factors and dynamics of social innovation, with a particular focus on how
dynamics of social exclusion are linked with innovative responses to exclusionary processes, and to
identify a diversity of types of social innovation which could be helpful to design and analyse social
innovation in the future.
The ultimate goal of WP4 is to lay out key elements for a coherent epistemological reading of social
complexity and how this is reflected in the various features of social innovation as addressed in the
various theoretical approaches and experiences covered in the sequel of this report:
An examination of the possibilities and the desirability to put forward an overarching
innovation analysis. Is the applied epistemology part of the research practice in social
innovation, or rather a Hineininterpretiering of research results?
contribute to the development of a panoptic epistemology?
The first chapter of Deliverable 4 presents the Sociology of Knowledge (SoK) approach as a
society they have worked, their community of knowledge (and their philosophical as well scientific
premises), etc. to solve the „problems of their time‟. These problems can be both practical and
scientific. The SoK approach is highly relevant for assessing the role of social innovation analysis –
including theory-building – for social innovation initiatives and processes under particular societal
and community conditions. It argues that SoK will only be effective if it is explicit about the view
of society (ontology) that underlies the meta-theoretical framework that SoK requires.
Moulaert's objective is to develop an epistemology not as a doctrine of scientific knowledge
consensus on the way to develop knowledge. Under this assumption, the author reflects on the role
of “truth” and “verity” in answering the core research questions from a social innovation
perspective: “truth” is concerned with the relevance of the scientific answers for the satisfaction of
(non revealed) needs, the transformation of social relations, the empowerment of populations and
communities; therefore, according to this point of view, the criteria for verity are necessarily
relationally conceived. At the same time, within this epistemological logic, the construction of
concepts and theories of social innovation must be assessed taking into account the societal
framework in which they have been developed.
Looking at ontology, Moulaert stresses the need to integrate the tension between two main logics in
the study of social transformation: the logic of being and the logic of becoming. Moulaert highlights
four approaches to the „construction of ontologies‟, which are relevant both to social theory and to
situate the role of the scientist in social innovation analysis and practices:
- an ontology (of the existent or desired) underpinning a theory or meta-theoretical framework;
- an ontogenesis or genesis of the vision of the existent or the desired (images of the future);
- a “flat ontology”, either an ontology of a homogenous society, or an „open‟ ontology which opens
itself to a gradual complexification, as we can see for instance in a Deleuzean approach;
- a structural-realist view of social reality: this is a view of society which recognises the structure of
the economy, the political world, etc. as significantly influenced by power relations.
The author stresses that these four approaches have analytical relevance, but they should be
connected to each other through a transdisciplinary approach – involving all concerned agents and
organisations – within a framework which is able to give strength to the connections between the
existent and the desired.
In the second part of the text, Moulaert reflects on some core elements of the Sociology of
forms of knowledge formation and social practices, and he stresses that there is no unique SoK
since the terms of a sociology of knowledge are largely determined by the theory of the society to
which it refers.
He then looks at Bloor's distinction between “weak programme” and “strong programme” in the
sociology of knowledge. He defines the first one as an approach where the context of intellectual
activity is recognised, the potential ideological bias allowed for, but no room is given to the analysis
of the activity of reason; he sees the second as an approach that could be called of „complete
embeddedness‟: the social, political and economic context that nourished the environment in which
knowledge was developed, the socio-cultural frame of the scientists, their belonging to scientific
and philosophical communities, the links between scientific practice and collective action, etc are
taken into consideration. He privileges the strong to the weak programme.
The last part of the text presents four replies to the common critic posed by positivism-oriented
First, the „strong programme‟ cannot be applied without a clear epistemological positioning about
how to address the role of knowledge production within society. The position of the author is a
structural realist perspective.
Second, the focus is not on „everything‟ but on the practices, institutions and socialisation dynamics
of scientific knowledge production, as embedded within societal dynamics.
Third, within the structural realist perspective and the „view of the world‟ it conveys, interrogations,
concepts and theories that address scientific practices producing knowledge about social innovation
will be privileged.
Fourth, these practices will be examined within their macro and micro social relations, with a
particular focus on the communities, social and cultural environments, political arenas and fields of
social integration and exclusion in which the knowledge institutions and scientists are involved.
In this text Jean Hiller outlines a Deleuzean-based approach to social innovation. The first part of
the text reflects on the relationships between knowledge and social innovation from the point of
view of Deleuze‟s logic of pragmatic creativity. The second part of the text reflects on the
advantages of a Deleuzean-inspired theory as a foundation for designing desired futures. The third
part revolves around a core question: how might we recognise or stimulate windows of opportunity
for socially creative strategies?
The author affirms that there is a need both to move from regarding social innovation as mainly
something constructed through a dynamic and relational interplay between different elements. The
Deleuzean view of social innovation is related to conflicts which are seen as challenges to
institutional legitimacy and which are able to create new forms of rationality. Jean Hillier identifies
some elements of Deleuze's approach that are useful for researching social innovation: emergence,
considered as a result of the interaction between components of complex systems;
multiscale/multiplanar micropolitics and macropolitics; a „flat‟ world rather than a multi-
hierarchical one; rhizome, conceived as a network of decentred set of linkages between multiple
branching „roots‟ and „shoots‟; democratic inclusion, seen as a democratic space beyond
In a second step, Hillier lists what she perceives as the main advantages of the use of Deleuzean
having creative potential and are able to develop deep, co-operative strategies. Looking at
innovation as a continuous creative process, problems are not defined by solutions and are not
solved once and for all but provisionally reformulated. Moreover, this Deleuzean-inspired theory
broadens beyond the field of economics and conceives knowledge as dynamic and driven by social
construction. According to this point of view, knowledge is also regarded as the capacity to direct
the self towards a different future. Finally, it is important to underline that such theory can be seen
as post-humanist, because it takes into consideration non-human actors.
In the last part of the text, Hillier offers a brief methodology for the recognition of “lines of flight”
particular regard to the relations between them, highlighting diagonals and transversals. This offers
opportunities to describe and to analyse the diversity of relations, the modalities of co-ordination,
the discourses, emotions, affects etc, and how they were mobilised to shape actants‟ frames,
representations and behaviours. Deleuze and Guattari‟s pragmatism is agonistic, referring to the role
of relational difference and conflict in creative transformation. In order to develop this
methodology, we need to take into account another important question raised by Hillier: what might
forces of social innovation look like? Forces would actually include discourses, materialities,
power, subjectivations, codings/territorialisations, i.e., a robust theoretical combination of
Deleuzean „axes‟ and Foucauldian dispositif. Deleuze and Guattari complement the dispositif by
defining the concepts of assemblage/agencement along two axes. One axis defines the roles which
components may play, being either purely material or purely expressive. The second axis concerns
the reterritorialisation/deterritorialisation, coding/decoding and stabilisation/destabilisation of
Another important methodological point is the identification, or mapping, of a range of diagrams of
assist/facilitate actualisation of selected diagram/s. Mapping, as above, generates „a set of various
intersecting lines‟ or diagram.
The author then briefly indicates two methods for research on social innovation in a Deleuzean
positive change by focussing on positive experiences, memories and successes of a community. The
second one is the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD). This is an assets or strengths
based approach to community practice which identifies the resources, expertise, skills, capacities
within communities rather than focusing on problems or deficiencies.
In her conclusions, Hillier suggests that a Deleuzean-inspired ontology offers „a more complete
psychological, natural-material, economic and political all at once. It does not restrict social
innovation to a limited number of possibilities, nor does it restrict potential „successful
interventions‟ to already-prescribed outcomes or solutions. It offers a more flexible approach and a
more fluid and dynamic vision of the time-spaces of territorial and social innovation. A Deleuzean-
inspired approach emphasises innovation, experiment, „the spark of the new‟: the capacity to
generate innovation through „an unprecedented leap, the capacity of the actual to be more than
itself, to become other than the way it has always functioned‟
In this chapter, Gibson-Graham proposes to examine in a reflexive way possible responses to the
following questions: are the KATARSIS researchers creating the grounds for social innovation with
socially creative thinking? What are socially creative thinking practices and how can the
KATARSIS network strengthen its capacity to engage with them?
In order to discuss these questions, the authors highlight the relationships between social innovation
practices and creativity, focusing on three main points, and interrogating the KATARSIS project for
evidence of socially creative thinking: first, there is the need to attend to the affect of researcher's
analysis; second, there is a claim to generate alternative discourses with performative effects; third,
it is fundamental to adopt an experimental orientation to increase the viability of social and
Looking at the reflexive role of creativity in the social innovation research, Gibson-Graham
first one is the SWOT technique, an established tool of contemporary social and community
analysis. This method is based on the analysis of attributes classified as Strengths, Weaknesses,
Opportunities and Threats. The SWOT technique can be applied to KATARSIS experiences to
analyse and evaluate many of the social innovation practices that have been surveyed. Its main
benefits are comprehensiveness, apparent thoroughness, simplicity and realism. The authors place
emphasis on the point that the claimed realism of a Weakness and Threats approach often drives the
researchers to a too simplistic overview of the situation, where the conversation dwells on the
challenges, and problems and negativity tend to prevail.
The second tool considered by the authors is a very different one called „needs and assets mapping,‟
that is an innovative method of Assets Based Community Development (ABCD). This instrument for
action research provides a wider frame of the needs of people and practices, local associations and
institutions. The results of the collective brainstorming about this mapping is much more oriented
through positivity, pride and appreciation.
In the second part of their text, Gibson-Graham reflect on the debate about “social economy“ and its
view, they stress that “capitalocentrism” of economic discourses subsumes all economically diverse
activities as ultimately the same as, the opposite of, a complement to or contained within capitalism.
If considered in this perspective, social economy's innovation potential could be only
underestimated and devaluated.
This is the reason why the authors tend to consider “real” economy activities (wage labour, market
diverse economic activities. Each one of the actors involved in these activities has the power to
generate narrations and representations; to let them emerge is a way to think less in terms of
cooptation (by the state or by capitalism) and more in terms of support between diverse non-
capitalist activities. This could mean less power given to representations of capital‟s structural
dynamics that drive change and limit alternatives, and more inventive energy available to theorise
the ethical choices and their unpredictable path-dependent trajectories.
In the third part of the text the authors examine the relationships between critical thinking and
experimentation in the social innovation research, stressing that the critical approach is fundamental
but it has to be integrated with a wider conception of social and economic dynamics. Starting from
this point, Gibson-Graham highlight that there is a strong need to develop researchers‟ capabilities
in order to open up to the questions they ask, looking more at those questions which are able to
support and foster social enterprise development.
What they suggest is a pedagogy of research able to produce strategic questioning. For example:
what might it take for these experiments to be viable, sustainable and successful in people-centered
terms? Or: how can we contribute to the success of these experiments? This non-aggressive
approach would be useful for cultivating an ethos and practice of experimentation rather than
In their conclusions, the authors examine the reflexive power of academic discourse, and pose a
strengthen (and thus perform) an innovative social economy through their academic work, or they
can undermine it by ignoring or downplaying its successes and potentials (thereby performing its
marginality). This process of validation and amplification, they say, is fostered not through
advocacy, or not through that alone, but through the epistemological support of creative thinking.
In their text Isabel André and Juan-Luis Klein reflect on the relationships between arts, creativity
and innovation. In the first part, the authors focus on the analytical interpretation of art and
creativity as part of a social innovation process that opens new possibilities for human expression
and communication. In the second part, André and Klein reflect on several theoretical aspects of
examples of links between artistic expressions and social innovation.
First, they consider the arts‟ potential to transform and deconstruct pre-ordered images of the world.
Looking at this topic, they highlight that one of the most significant contributions of arts to social
innovation is related to the use of metaphors, conceived as explanatory structures capable of
moving experiences through different domains of significance. At the same time, arts also have the
ability to shape new possible futures and to inspire social change. From this point of view, they
connect the growing relevance of “aesthetisation” in daily life to the emergence of new
transcendences, seen as challenges to the traditional spiritual values.
Frequently arts defies the established rules and deconstruct stereotypes showing their incoherencies,
their inappropriateness in the face of new contexts, or their ethical gaps. In this way arts play a
crucial role in social innovation strategies. But arts can also be a very efficient vehicle of
propaganda to support conservative political regimes. In both situations artistic expressions emerge
as decisive instruments because of their communication power.
Arts can also become a source of inspiration for new social relations, emphasising performance as
opposed to conformance, and asking constantly for a pro-active attitude. According to this point of
view, one of the main social roles of arts is to let undervalued feelings, beliefs or visions of the
An important question raised by André and Klein is: what is a social milieu? Their answer is that
socially creative milieux can emerge in social contexts characterised by four essential features:
1) social and cultural diversity – the potential contact and interaction with new objects, new ideas,
2) tolerance – the capacity to allow for error and to consent to risk;
3) civic participation – the possibility and the capacity to dialogue and to decide;
4) the collective memory that prevents the potential fragmentation related to change, acting as a
This theoretical approach leads the authors to a critique of the “creative city” discourse: they
highlight how the deterministic image of creative cities as “treasure maps to investment” often
covers up socially destructive gentrification processes and wider inequalities. At the same time, they
observe that some authors (e.g. Gertler) are trying to conciliate Florida‟s and Landry‟s concepts of
the creative cities with the goal to reinforce social and territorial inclusion and cohesion, proposing
a more sustainable way toward a creativity-led urban planning.
Looking closer at some examples of social innovations related to arts and creativity, the authors
examine three types.
The first type highlighted by André and Klein is street art, seen as a tool of symbolic resistance
against military dictatorships in South-America during '70s and '80s.
The second type concerns more institutionalised artistic companies that assume a social
commitment. Emblematic cases here are le Cirque du Soleil and the Birmingham Opera Company.
The third example revolves around public art and art in public, in particular in the rehabilitation of
urban public space; André and Klein stress the role of art in promoting community pride, fostering
social encounter and avoiding social and cultural fragmentation.
The text situates past and present definitions and uses of social innovation in theory and practice
concept in political science, sociology and economics. In the second, he discusses four different
approaches to social innovation in contemporary social sciences. The third part deals with the
relationships occurring between social innovation and territorial development. Finally, Moulaert
focuses on the social relations of territorial community development.
The starting point for Moulaert is that the concept of social innovation is not a new one. In the
specific changes in particular contexts. Later on, Weber and Durkheim emphasised changes in
social relations or in social organisation within political and economic communities. In the 1930's,
Schumpeter developed an extensive yet implicit theory of innovation, focusing on the relationship
between development and innovation, the significance of sociology to understand different
dimensions of development and the role of the entrepreneur in this change. Finally, in the 1970s, the
French intellectuals of the „Temps des Cerises‟ and the journal “Autrement” organised a debate
around the wider social and political significance of the transformation of society, summarised in
the book Que sais-je? by Chambon, David and Devevey. This work reflects on the relationships
between social/individuation needs, societal change, and the role of the state, offering a fuller
picture of social innovation which provides a platform for global discussion on this theme. Moulaert
affirms that social innovation can be rediscovered today in the creative rethinking of a society
operated by the artistic world, and in the use of the concept as an alternative to the logic of the
market in scientific literature and political practice.
The author continues by presenting four contemporary approaches, or spheres, that use social
interrelations, i.e. within social sciences, where there is an emerging reinterpretation of social
capital thus offering opportunities for an improved reading of the social dynamics in a diversity of
themes. The second approach arises from the fields of arts and creativity, and is focused on the role
of social innovation in social and intellectual creation. The third sphere concerns social innovation
in territorial development, especially through the Integrated Area Development approach, which
brings together the various dimensions of social development and the roles of the principal actors
by structuring them around the principle of social innovation, linking satisfaction of human needs to
innovation in the social relationships of governance. The fourth sphere in which social innovation is
the order of the day is that of political science and public administration.
The third part of the text focuses on social innovation and territorial development, reflecting on the
based on social innovation. The author identifies two main reasons: the first one is the fast and
dramatic transformation of urban neighbourhoods that leads to the decline of community life; the
second reason is that spatial density simultaneously works as a catalyst for showing alternatives.
Moulaert's thesis is that needs satisfaction and assets for development approaches cannot be
separated, but they have to be integrated through a combination of several processes: the revealing
of needs and of potentials to meet them especially considering the role of social movements and
institutional dynamics; the education and professional training leading to integration into the labour
market, but also to more active participation in consultation and decision making on the future of
the territory; the integration of groups of deprived citizens into the labour market and the local
social economy production systems. The Integrated Area Development approach is socially
innovative both from sociologic and economic points of view and works exactly in this direction:
from one side it involves innovation in the relations between individuals and within and among
groups; from another side, it links the fundamental needs of groups of citizens deprived of a
minimum income, access to quality education, and other benefits deriving from an economy from
which their community has been excluded. The combination of these two readings of social
innovation stresses the importance of creating „bottom-up‟ institutions for participation and
decision-making, as well as for production and allocation of goods and services and for the
promotion of experiences of alternative territorial development, inspired and/or steered by socially
innovative agencies and processes. Socially innovative governance in IAD has as an objective the
democratisation of local development, through activating local politics and policy-making,
simplifying the functioning of institutions and attributing a more significant role to local
populations and social movements.
The fourth part of the text centers on the social relations of territorial community development.
development helps to avoid a deterministic reading of both the past and the structural–institutional
context in which territorial and community development should take place. Looking at the nexus of
social relations and territorial development, the author observes that the social relations of territorial
development are not legible in general terms; in fact their reading requires an explication of the
nature of development, the type of socio-political development, the nature of the strategic actors and
the relationships with the territory – in all its social, political, economic etc. dimensions. At the
same time, he stresses that social innovation means not only the (re)production of social capital(s)
in view of the implementation of development agendas, but also their protection from
fragmentation/segmentation, and the valorisation of their territorial and community specificity
through the organisation and mobilisation of excluded or disfavoured groups and territories.
Vicari and Tornaghi organise the great variety of socially innovative and creative initiatives
respect to four existential fields (Labour Market and Social Economy, Education and Training,
Housing and Neighbourhood, Health and Environment). In a second step, on the basis of a
transversal reading of these various forms of innovation across existential fields, they proceed to
integrate them into two tentative models of social innovation.
For the cited existential fields, the authors identify different forms of social innovation primarily by
looking at the actors involved and their strategies. Which kind of actors are the movers in
contrasting processes of social exclusion? What is their vision of the causes of social exclusion and
of problems they are confronted with? Which strategies do they pursue to find solutions to these
problems? These questions guide their analysis of the socially innovative initiatives collected and
reviewed in the course of the Katarsis project.
Their reading of the forms across existential fields underlines the emergence of two main
people to pursue progressive social change; the second is the process of institutionalisation, in
which innovation settles into relatively stable and sustainable arrangements. These two dimensions
serve as the fuel and the engine of social innovation; taking them together as orthogonal axes they
can be used to define a space in which to locate the instances of social innovation analysed by
The authors tentatively order these instances of social innovation along these two dimensions and
strength of value orientation toward social justice, environmental concerns, democracy and
empowerment, in brief toward progressive social change that directly motivates the actors involved
and legitimises their action. The second axis, representing the „engine‟, measures the extent to
which these practices have penetrated the public sphere. The analysed initiatives do so in two
strictly intertwined ways, by entering into governance relationships with public governmental
bodies at various scales and by influencing the public discourse in the direction of more inclusive
and effective citizenship rights. Depending on the context, an impact on the public sphere can be
achieved in different ways: civil society organisations can perform as innovative service provision
agents, which identify and respond to new needs and demands, thus giving legitimacy to new
claims in the public discourse; civil society organisations can also transform the institutional
governance framework, changing values and norms to generate new policies and practices. In both
ways it is the link between civil society organisations and different public and private actors at
different scales which has proven to be the crucial element for the success of those “bottom-
In the space charted by these two axes Vicari and Tornaghi find that the innovative initiatives
The upper left concentration hosts initiatives in which citizens, in differently organised forms, play
a leading role and engage in activities with a strong value content that motivates them and strongly
informs their practices. These initiatives have multiple links with social movements and often find
in “the movement of movements” their main cultural reference; they are able to take part in
alternative "associative networks" which they form and operate on their own terms, with or without
outside support, on the basis of a shared orientation of self-organization and direct action and
involvement. Hence their critical stance, with a varying degree of radicalism, vis à vis
representative democracy, which is perceived as ineffective in addressing new forms of social
exclusion. Alternatives to the existing social order are then articulated in a plurality of visions in
which value orientation toward social justice, environmental concerns, democracy and
empowerment are called upon in different combination. As a consequence of this radical/alternative
cultural orientation, initiatives in this first model have an unstable relationship with public actors
and difficulties in engaging with governance institutional structures; this relationship varies from an
oppositional and confrontational stance to forms of reciprocal recognition and cooperation,
although often based on precarious and temporary arrangements and subject to ongoing
An opposite model is identifiable in the lower-right concentration. These initiatives are
profit sectors, and the primacy of governmental actors at different scales in governance structures.
Civil society organisations and associations as well as Third sector foundations, agencies and
enterprises are involved as co-producers of public policy, contributing to the success of the
initiatives by their direct and situated knowledge and their capacity to partake in complex networks
of different actors. Among these initiatives the commitment to progressive values may not be as
strong and paramount nor may it contribute so strongly to the group and individual identity of the
participants; the focus is on service provision or even effective production of goods, and more