Systemising social innovation initiatives and their regional context in Europe

René Wintjes, Nordine Es-Sadki & Ad Notten


Social innovation can be seen as new combinations of social, economic and political capital (resources and capabilities)1. In social innovation initiatives actors with different capabilities cooperate and function as systems of innovation. The various actors (from the social, economic and/or political domain) contribute and benefit in different tangible and intangible ways. As producers and users of solutions for societal problems they co-create value for society. The paper aims for insights in the economic outcomes of social innovation. We argue that social innovation can be seen as an investment, rather than a cost. For 55 social innovation initiatives across Europe we identify economic outcomes for the various actors, and the sustainability of the initiative. Since social innovation is context-dependent, and because the regional situation concerning social innovation differs across the EU, we also systemise the regional context in which the social innovation initiatives have emerged. The results support the idea that social innovation generates economic as well as complementary social benefits. Four types of regional systems of social innovation can be identified. It helps explain why regions as different contexts induce different social innovation initiatives and economic outcomes.

Keywords: social innovation, indicators, outcome, regions, measurement, innovation systems

JEL Classification: O31, 035, I31

Download the working paper