Key dimensions of social innovation

The complexity of the SI concept has led to it being analysed increasingly in systemic terms. This approach allows a closer examination of the role of both formal and informal institutions in the SI process. In the EU context, the SI definition provided by BEPA seems to carry the most weight. It defines it as ‘new ideas (products, services and models) that simultaneously meet social needs (more effectively than alternatives) and create new social relationships or collaborations. They are innovations that are not only good for society but also enhance society’s capacity to act.’ One research paper looking at the definition of SI across several current research projects describes a number of common assumptions: all definitions include a reference to SI producing new social practice and relations or products, based on collaboration and participation of end-users, who are then equipped with legitimacy in relation or response to different needs and structural deficits: the provision of welfare, rural or urban development or failing markets.
SI can happen not only in different sectors but also in very different environments, such as social organisations, movements, politics, governments, markets and media.