Radical futures? Exploring the policy relevance of social innovation

Benedetta De Pieri, Simon Teasdale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
18 Downloads (Pure)


This paper aims to unpack the sets of policy ideas underpinning the use of social innovation, thus permeating the allegedly politically neutral language of the concept.

Drawing on Daigneualt (2014), this paper adapts a four-dimensional approach to investigate the sets of ideas underpinning different conceptualisations of social innovation, particularly in relation to who the actors driving social change are, the nature of the problems addressed, the objectives pursued and the means used to achieve these objectives.

Applying the four-dimensional approach to a corpus of literature, this paper found evidence of two different perspectives along each dimension, namely, a radical empowerment approach and an incremental market-oriented one.
Research limitations/implications
A limitation of the study is the focus on academic literature, whereas a broader focus on policy discourse may give further insights. However, this paper argues that this study can be the ground for future research to investigate whether and how the two approaches identified have been adopted in different institutional and policy contexts.

The paper contributes to the development of social innovation research by boosting and encouraging further investigation on how different sets of ideas underpin social innovation discourse and its use as a policy concept.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)94-110
Number of pages17
JournalSocial Enterprise Journal
Issue number1
Early online date3 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2021


  • policy ideas
  • social innovation
  • empowerment, engagement, knowing, doing, decision-making, influencing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Development
  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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