Project

TRANSIT (Transformative Social Innovation Theory)

Goal: TRANSIT is a European Community funded (FP7) research initiative, responding to the call for research on "Social Innovation: empowering people, changing societies". It is coordinated by DRIFT (Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands), and involves twelve separate research institutes from across Europe and Latin-America (including the UFRJ/Coppe DESIS Lab). It aims to develop a theory of transformative social innovation, by studying how networks of social entrepreneurs and families of social innovation projects contribute to systemic societal change.
Website: http://www.transitsocialinnovation.eu/

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Bonno Pel
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Social innovation (SI) is gaining attention as an innovation category. However, the SI concept proves vulnerable to stereotypical understandings. Next to the radically novel, diffusion-oriented and thereby manifestly innovative social ‘niches’, it is important to also acknowledge the rather latent SI phenomena of restoration and shielding. This paper therefore develops a critical-historicizing perspective that highlights the social construction of innovations in social relations. Building on scholarship in Strategic Niche Management, grassroots innovation and critical innovation studies, four ‘shapes of social innovation’ are distinguished. Substantiating and deepening this conceptual classification through empirical evidence on 20 SI initiatives, the analysis highlights how social innovations may take on several of the theorised appearances throughout their existence in society (shapeshifting). Disclosing overlooked SI phenomena, this critical-historicizing understanding informs more comprehensive and balanced SI research and practice
Julia Wittmayer
added a research item
This paper develops a conceptual understanding of transformative innovations as shared activities, ideas and objects across locally rooted sustainability initiatives that explore and develop alternatives to incumbent and (perceived) unsustainable regimes that they seek to challenge, alter or replace. We synthesize empirical work from two European research projects (TRANSIT and ARTS), in which initiatives and networks were empirically studied, to develop a broader conceptual understanding of the emergence of transformative innovation. The development of initiatives can occur through growing, replicating, partnering, instrumentalising and embedding. This is supported through translocal networks that connect initiatives by sharing ideas, objects and activities across local contexts. This translocal characteristic of transformative innovations harnesses an enormous potential for sustainability transitions, but requires further understanding as well as governance support. The perspective we present provides a conceptual starting point to further explore the development and diffusion of transformative innovation as well as transition governance strategies.
Julia Wittmayer
added a research item
Social innovation is on the rise as a mode of governance through which to address societal challenges. Seeking to empower SI initiatives, researchers and policy makers are concerned with the development of supportive “ecosystems”. This concept usefully calls attention to the distributed nature of SI agency, but many questions remain on the kinds of network constellations involved. This contribution unpacks the “SI ecosystems” concept, specifying how the empowerment afforded through SI networks rests on (1) local embedding, (2) transnational connectivity and (3) discursive resonance. Charting the variety of network constellations as studied in an international comparison of 20 transnational SI networks, a typology of SI ecosystems is constructed. Distinguishing five SI ecosystem ideal-types ranging from loosely integrated and locally focused co-creation hubs to globally connected and widely resonating political movements, the typology informs a differentiated approach to their understanding and development.
Julia Wittmayer
added 2 research items
What is the transformative potential of social enterprise? To be more than a fashion or a fictitious panacea, the concept of social enterprise needs to be debated. The book volume ‘Theory of Social Enterprise and Pluralism: Social Movements, Solidarity Economy, and Global South’ is edited by Philippe Eynaud, Jean-Louis Laville, Luciane dos Santos, Swati Banerjee, DRIFTer Flor Avelino and Lars Hulgård and engages a multicontinental and pluridisciplinary discussion in order to provide a pluralist theory of social enterprise. The challenge for researchers aiming to understand the dynamics of social enterprise, is to acknowledge the dialectic complexity between transformative change and systematic reproduction, and to develop conceptual frameworks and empirical observations that help us understand how, when, to what extent and under which conditions social enterprise can contribute to transformative social change towards more sustainable and just societies. This is exactly what this book has set out to do, by proposing a framework to distinguish and compare the different ways in which social enterprise manifests, and by exploring a rich set of empirical cases of and theoretical perspectives on social enterprise around the world. The edited volume includes a chapter by DRIFTers Flor Avelino and Julia Wittmayer on the transformative potential of social enterprise to challenge, alter or replace existing power relations. The authors take a multi-actor perspective to unpack different concepts and empirical manifestations of social enterprise, such as the ecovillage movement, the social entrepreneurs network Impact Hub, and participatory budgeting. An accepted manuscript version of the chapter can be downloaded here.
Society is transforming through a whirlpool of innovations, including technological innovations and a wide array of social innovations such as new modes of governance or ways of working and living together. As researchers and practitioners are trying to make sense of transformative innovations, they run into various paradoxes: Despite being revolutionized or transformed, society remains all too familiar; or whilst being framed as something new and apparently breaking with the past, many innovations seem attempts to restore history. Various strands of research have documented such paradoxes of transformative innovation including social innovation research, sustainability transitions research, critical social theory, ‘diverse economies’ scholarship, social movement theory, and political sciences. Through these social-theoretical studies but also through work in innovation studies and Science and Technology Studies, these and other paradoxes have become widely acknowledged as an inherent dimension of transformative innovation phenomena. The question that remains is how to move from this critical awareness towards appropriate strategies of inquiry? By focusing on comprehensive strategies of inquiry, this contribution seeks to bridge the divide between rigorous but sterile methodological know-how, and critical-reflexive theorizing lacking methodological concreteness. While advances in this direction have been made, they remain rather dispersed over the various pockets of critical scholarship on transformative innovation phenomena. Inspired by the systematic distinction of theory-building strategies to handle paradoxes of social theory by Poole & van de Ven (1989), we formulate elements of paradox-acknowledging strategies of inquiry (SoI). SoI are comprehensive methodological approaches that integrate considerations of ontology, epistemology and methodology. Drawing on various case study experiences and mobilizing methodological advances from a range of disciplines, we seek to open up a critical methodological debate: How to study these paradoxical phenomena? Why such and not so?
Julia Wittmayer
added a research item
Alongside current policy discourses on the transformative potentials of social innovation, social innovation initiatives also construct their own accounts of how society can be transformed and by whom. Building on state-of-the-art futures studies and narrative research and their linkages, this article unfolds these narratives of change (NoC) by social innovation initiatives. A tripartite framework is used to analyse and discuss the content, construction and role of the NoC of four initiatives: Ashoka, the Global Ecovillage Network, RIPESS and Shareable. The analysis shows that all NoC suggest alternative economic arrangements that challenge the current neoliberal, capitalist system, including the dominant policy narrative of (social) innovation for economic growth. It further highlights the pivotal role of NoC in the construction of individual and social identities and the efforts dedicated to the development and communication of collectively shared worldviews. Differences in NoC are identified regarding the more deliberative or rather hierarchical ways of narrative construction. Concluding reflections highlight how NoC reveal the failings of current systems and suggest alternatives, that their construction mirrors and thereby tests the model of change advocated by social innovation initiatives and that NoC may lure actors into enrolment by offering opportunities to engage in meaning-making.
Flor Avelino
added a research item
This paper contributes to public and academic discussions on empowerment and social innovation by conceptualizing the mechanisms of empowerment from a social psychology perspective, and empirically exploring how people are empowered through both local and transnational linkages, i.e. translocal networks. Section 2 conceptualizes empowerment as the process through which actors gain the capacity to mobilize resources to achieve a goal, building on different power theories in relation to social change, combined with self-determination theory and intrinsic motivation research. Based on that conceptualization, empirical questions are formulated to be asked about cases under study. Section 3 then provides an empirical analysis of translocal networks that work with social innovation both at the global and local level. A total of five networks are analyzed: FEBEA, DESIS, the Global Ecovillage Network, Impact Hub and Slow Food. The embedded cases-study approach allows an exploration of how people are empowered through the transnational networking while also zooming in on the dynamics in local initiatives. In the final section, conceptual and empirical insights are synthesized into a characterization of the mechanisms of translocal empowerment, and challenges for future research are formulated.
Iris Kunze
added an update
Book sample in German including paper on TRANSIT results from the perspective of Gras-Roots-Initiatives as revitalization movement of society:
Kunze, Iris (2018): Soziale Innovationen und „Gesellschaftswandel von unten“. Transformative Ansätze und Herausforderungen von Grass-Roots-Initiativen. In: Matthias Grundmann (Hg.) Gesellschaft von unten!? Studien zur Formierung zivilgesellschaftlicher Graswurzelinitiativen. Beltz Juventa, Weinheim.
 
Rene Kemp
added a research item
In the paper of this presentation, we argue that Polanyi’s two-movement model is best reformulated as a three-movement model of i) marketization, 2) state-based social protection and 3) the humanization of the economy. The third movement is a countermovement to the first movement and to some elements of the second movement. Like its two cousins, the humanization movement reaches across sectors, and is based on specific organizing principles that shape the characteristics of formal and informal governing institutions. The three movement model helps to make sense of current developments: the rise in humanization initiatives, against the background of marketization and reform of the welfare state. We view this third movement as a process of humanization and re-embedding as the opposite of dis-embedding: the loss of social ties and sense of purpose in individualistic societies. It is not re-embedding in the sense of restoring the past, which in our view, was not a time of happily embedded people. Efforts at or processes of re-embedding can, however, involve the re-discovery or restoration of old organisational forms, which are then recreated in a modern form. The paper is based on on research for the TRANSIT project. TRANSIT is an international research project that develops a theory of Transformative Social Innovation that is useful to both research and practice. It is co-funded by the European Commission and runs for four years, from 2014 until 2017. For more information, see http://www.transitsocialinnovation.eu/
Flor Avelino
added 2 research items
This editorial introduces the special feature on the role of game-changers, broadly conceptualized as macro-trends that change the “rules of the game,” in processes of transformative social innovation. First, the key concepts are introduced together with the academic workshop that brought together 25 scholars, from across a wide range of disciplines, to discuss the role of game-changers in transformative social innovation, resulting in the 9 contributions in this special feature. Second, the differing conceptualizations of the role of game-changers in transformative social innovation across the set of articles are discussed. Third, an overview is provided of the different empirical examples of game-changers and transformative social innovations addressed; examples were drawn from different geographical contexts across Europe, North America, South America, Africa, and Asia. Fourth, the differing epistemological approaches used to explain social change are noted, and lessons for interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research on social change discussed. Finally, a synthesis is provided of the main insights and contributions to the literature.
An updated version of this working paper has been published in the 'Research Policy' journal (2020). Pel, B., Haxeltine, A., Avelino, F., Dumitru, A., Kemp, R., Bauler, T., Kunze, I., Dorland, J., Wittmayer, W. & Jørgensen, M. S. (2020), Towards a theory of Transformative Social Innovation: a relational framework and 12 propositions, Research Policy, Volume 49(8), October 2020, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.respol.2020.104080
Bauler Tom
added a research item
In recent years, there have been substantial efforts towards theory-building and conceptual clarification in social innovation (SI) research further contributing to its consolidation as a research field. Taking a different angle, this special issue aims to contribute to such consolidation by introducing greater reflexivity about the underlying methodologies and logics of inquiry. It features eight contributions from the main methodological orientations in SI research, namely systematic knowledge development and action-oriented research that discuss particular methodological challenges and advances. This editorial synthesis serves to take stock and elicit their broader significance for SI research along the normative, temporal and comparative dimensions of methodology choices. Dimensions, which are salient to SI research without being tied to any specific methodological tradition. As such, they reflect our aim to transcend the methodological fragmentation of the SI research field and open up a methodological discussion through a methodologically pluralist stance.
Bonno Pel
added 2 research items
This paper argues that there is currently a need for new theory on transformative social innovation that is able to provide empowering insights to practice, especially in terms of how social innovation interacts with transformative change processes. It identifies three ‘pitfalls’ that such theory-building needs to confront, and presents middle-range theory development, together with a focus on social relations and the processes of social innovation, as three elements of a theory-building strategy that responds to these pitfalls. In describing the implementation of this strategy in successive iterations between empirical case study research and integrative analysis, critical reflections are drawn on each of the three elements of the theory-building strategy. Taken together, these reflections underline the importance of maintaining a reflexive approach in developing new knowledge and theory on new social innovation.
Considering that it is important for the social innovation research field to confront its methodological challenges, this contribution addresses the challenge of choosing appropriate units of analysis. Invoking insights from actor-network theory, it is demonstrated that this challenge is pervasive: the agency in social innovation processes is distributed and therefore fundamentally difficult to detect and ascribe. This elusiveness becomes particularly pressing in attempts towards systematic comparison of cases. Critically evaluating the three main unit of analysis choices that guided an international comparison of 20 transnational SI networks and their local manifestations, methodological lessons are drawn on the agents that SI can be ascribed to, on the transnational agency through which it spreads and on the relevant transformation contexts involved.
Isabel Lema-Blanco
added a research item
As part of the broader research strategy in the TRANSIT project, it is the aim to compare RIPESS with other cases of transformative social innovation. The report primarily serves this internal purpose of building theory through case comparison. So other than providing a comprehensive case study and evaluating the achievements of the featured initiatives in their own terms of social and solidarity economy (SSE), this study considers RIPESS and its Belgian/Romanian manifestations primarily for their significance in terms of transformative social innovation. Likewise, RIPESS is considered for the particular ways in which it has developed as a social innovation network, the particular ways in which it pursues more or less transformative changes, and it particular challenges, solutions and evolution patterns in relation to similar initiatives . Comparing RIPESS with similar initiatives promises to help develop a well-informed and solid understanding of Transformative Social Innovation (TSI).
Isabel Lema-Blanco
added a research item
Panel Session presentation on the TRANSIT’s Final Conference “Learning for Change: A Journey through the Theory & Practice of Transformative Social Innovation”. 14-15th September 2017, Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Brief presentation of research findings from the TRANSIT project on ethical finances and timebanking.Empirical data is presented from the FIARE and FEBEA social innovations, as well as from the timebanking movement in UK and USA. Aims of the session: -Understanding How can Social Innovations empower youth people and engage them in community action (involving new ways of thinking, knowing, doing and framing) -Exploring the relationship between Social innovation, Motivations and Empowerment (youth engagement in TSI); Topics of the presentation: - How How transformative social innovations (e.g.social-based credit cooperatives) do contribute to transitions towards sustainable economies? - Motivations, relations and transformations: the role of social learning in individual and collective agency for social innovation. Learning for transformative change: What did CUs learn to successfully achieve their objectives? - Strategies to engage new members and maintain motivation: ”bringing communities together and raising people’s community spirit” . TRANSIT insights for practitioners REFERENCES Dumitru, A., Lema-Blanco, I., Kunze, I., Kemp, R., Wittmayer, J., Haxeltine, A., García-Mira, R., Zuijderwijk, L. and Cozan, S. (2017) Social learning in social innovation initiatives : learning about systemic relations and strategies for transformative change (TRANSIT Brief#4), TRANSIT: EU SHH.2013.3.2-1 Grant agreement no: 613169. Dumitru, A., Lema-Blanco, I., García-Mira, R., Haxeltine, A. and Frances. A. (2015) WP4 : case study report : Credit Unions. TRANSIT: EU SSH.2013.3.2-1 Grant agreement no: 613169. Weaver, P., Dumitru, A., García-Mira, R., Lema-Blanco, A., Muijsers, L. and Vasseur, V. (2016) WP 4 : case study report : timebanking, TRANSIT: EU SSH.2013.3.2-1 Grant agreement no: 613169.
Bonno Pel
added a research item
Social innovation is increasingly endorsed for its potentials towards addressing societal challenges of sustainability, social inclusion and democratization. Critical scholars and practitioners have raised attention however to the many ways in which SI silently reproduces rather than transforms dominant institutions. This contribution seeks to clarify the debate by casting transformative social innovation (TSI) as a reconstructive kind of efforts towards institutional change. Invoking insights from institutional theory and relational sociology, it is elicited how this reconstructive approach is in several ways well geared for achieving transformative impacts in current institutional constellations. Reconstructing its accompanying imaginaries of institutional change, it is shown to be a paradoxical approach to transformation. A critical analysis of these imaginaries of institutional change also reveals how TSI remains surrounded by various unwarranted assumptions and teleological projections on institutions that neglect those paradoxes. As simplistic imaginaries are typically produced through unreflective use of empirical exemplars, this study invokes empirical insights gained in a comparative study on 20 transnational social innovation networks.
Flor Avelino
added a research item
This article responds to increasing public and academic discourses on social innovation, which often rest on the assumption that social innovation can drive societal change and empower actors to deal with societal challenges and a retreating welfare state. In order to scrutinise this assumption, this article proposes a set of concepts to study the dynamics of transformative social innovation and underlying processes of multi-actor (dis)empowerment. First, the concept of transformative social innovation is unpacked by proposing four foundational concepts to help distinguish between different pertinent ‘shades’ of change and innovation: 1) social innovation, (2) system innovation, (3) game-changers, and (4) narratives of change. These concepts, invoking insights from transitions studies and social innovations literature, are used to construct a conceptual account of how transformative social innovation emerges as a co-evolutionary interaction between diverse shades of change and innovation. Second, the paper critically discusses the dialectic nature of multi-actor (dis)empowerment that underlies such processes of change and innovation. The paper then demonstrates how the conceptualisations are applied to three empirical case-studies of transformative social innovation: Impact Hub, Time Banks and Credit Unions. In the conclusion we synthesise how the concepts and the empirical examples help to understand contemporary shifts in societal power relations and the changing role of the welfare state.
Isabel Lema-Blanco
added a research item
This 4th TRANSIT brief, authored by Adina Dumitru, Isabel Lema-Blanco and colleagues, offers insights into the following questions: what is social learning, what does it consist of in the case of SI initiatives, and why is social learning important – even foundational – for SI initiatives as well as wider society? Because social innovation initiatives experiment with radically different ways of doing things and have ambitions to achieve change in society, social learning is of paramount importance. Through experimentation with new social relations, interaction and conscious reflection, members of SI initiatives learn about how to develop, thrive and engage in effective strategies for transforming existing practices and institutions. They develop ways of relating to one another that are more fulfilling, and strategies for interacting with existing institutions, practices and relations of power. When such insights, strategies and the underlying values become shared, we speak of social learning. Social innovations become transformative when they challenge, alter, replace or produce alternatives to well-established social relations, and ways of doing things. In their journeys, social innovations are subject to pressures for change themselves. They thus need to learn how to maintain autonomy and integrity and resist capture, especially from government and other powerful actors. Social learning in transformative social innovations will be illustrated with empirical examples from the following three (TRANSIT) cases: slow food, credit unions & financial cooperatives and ecovillages.
Adina Dumitru
added a research item
Neoliberalism is a powerful narrative that has shaped processes of urban economic development across the globe. This paper reports on four nascent ‘new economic’ narratives which represent fundamentally different imaginaries of the urban economy. Experiments informed by these narratives challenge the dominant neoliberal logic in four key dimensions: What is the purpose of economic development? What are the preferred distributive mechanisms? Who governs the economy? What is the preferred form of economic organisation? The emergence of these experiments illustrates that cities are spaces where counter-narratives can emerge and circulate. Acknowledging the existence of these alternative visions opens up a wider set of possibilities for future urban transitions.
Bonno Pel
added a research item
This deliverable is the synthesis report of work package 5 ‘Cases and Evidence – Meta analysis’. It presents the results of the meta-analysis of TSI propositions through the Critical Turning Points database. This database contains 65 local manifestations of transnational social innovation networks in 28 different countries, and almost 400 in-depth accounts of Critical Turning Points in the histories of these local manifestations. The synthesis provides empirical testing and substantiation of 12 propositions on TSI, as inputs for the final account of TSI theory.
Bauler Tom
added a research item
Current persistent challenges of sustainable and equitable development call for systemic technical and social innovations. The ´insertion´ practices of work integration social enterprises (WISEs) can be considered examples of such innovation efforts. The underlying rationales and institutional frameworks have been elaborated extensively in social economy scholarship. However, as WISEs are frequently reported to fall victim to pressures towards isomorphism or ‘capture’ by incumbent institutional structures, transitions theory seems worthwhile to invoke in order to develop a dynamic understanding of these processes. As illustrated through case study data on the Flemish social economy, it is highlighted how ´insertion´ displays longitudinal dynamics of institutional capture that are similar to those observed in sustainability transitions more generally. This empirical analysis helps to identify the scope for fruitful paradigmatic interplay between transitions studies and social economy scholarship.
Bonno Pel
added an update
Isabel Lema-Blanco
added 4 research items
This TRANSIT brief offers insights into the following questions: what is social learning, what does it consist of in the case of SI initiatives, and why is social learning important – even foundational – for SI initiatives as well as wider society? The brief also, brief provides insight into the role of networks in social learning for social innovation. Answers to these questions are illustrated with empirical examples from the following three (TRANSIT) cases: Slow Food, Credit Unions & Financial Cooperatives and Eco-villages.
This work is part of the EU-funded research project named TRANSIT that aims to built a theory which explains TRANsformative Social Innovation Theory” processes. Concretely, today we will present a part of our empirical research that focuses on the role of the Credit Unions movement in sustainable transitions as actors that contribute to social innovation and systemic change in crucial sectors like ethical finances or sustainable economy. Results suggest that social learning processes seem to have a key role in the evolution and succeed of social innovations (in credit unions case-studies).
Flor Avelino
added a research item
In his book The Great Transformation (1944), Karl Polanyi introduced the concept of a double movement in society. The first movement is towards marketization: the spread of market thinking and market-based forms of allocation throughout society, driven by international trade and naturalist ideas of competition and utilitarianism. The second movement consists of social protection against the negative consequences of that same marketization through state-based social security systems. This second movement has taken several forms, such as the creation of factory regulations (offering protection against work place hazards and worker exploitation), social security of some sort (state-based poor relief and support for the old and sick), and rise of (nationalistic) fascist parties (promising protection from threats to culture or country). In this paper, we argue that Polanyi's two-movement model is best reformulated as a three-movement model of i) marketization, 2) state-based social protection and 3) the humanization of the economy. The third movement is a countermovement to the first movement and to some elements of the second movement. Like its two cousins, the humanization movement reaches across sectors, and is based on specific organizing principles that shape the characteristics of formal and informal governing institutions. The three movement model helps to make sense of current developments: the rise in humanization initiatives, against the background of marketization and reform of the welfare state. We view this third movement as a process of humanization and re-embedding as the opposite of dis-embedding: the loss of social ties and sense of purpose in individualistic societies. It is not re-embedding in the sense of restoring the past, which in our view, was not a time of happily embedded people. Efforts at or processes of re-embedding can, however, involve the re-discovery or restoration of old organisational forms, which are then recreated in a modern form. The paper makes a contribution to the literature on transformation and social innovation. It is based on a dialectic view of the world containing different logics which interact with each other but also have their own vehicles for change in the form of institutions, networks, practices, and self-legitimation. Empirically the focus is on Western countries and social innovation initiatives that are based on a positive appreciation of social ties (human bonds), the commons, practices of sharing and collaborating with an important role for personal integrity and intrinsic motivations. 1 This paper is based on research for the TRANSIT project and is an attempt at theoretical generalisation. TRANSIT is an international research project that develops a theory of Transformative Social Innovation that is useful to both research and practice. It is co-funded by the European Commission (grant agreement no 613169) and runs for four years, from 2014 until 2017. The TRANSIT consortium consists of 12 partners across Europe and Latin America. For more information, see http://www.transitsocialinnovation.eu/. We thank Pieter Glasbergen for offering critical comments on an earlier version. 2
Flor Avelino
added an update
On March 15th March 2017, researchers from the TRANSIT-project organized a research to policy lunch seminar at the European Commission in Brussels to exchange insights on what we can learn from social innovation research on how to create a more solidary and inclusive economy. During this research-to-policy seminar, we presented an overall overview of the research insights so far, and then we zoomed in on three concrete examples of solidarity economy initiatives: Basic Income, Participatory Budgeting and Time Banks. TRANSIT researchers distilled their insights on what kind of innovative economy arrangements these networks are envisioning and practicing, what the potentials and challenges of such arrangements are, and how they position around institutions at different levels. A summary of the seminar, including links to papers and presentations, can be found here: http://www.transitsocialinnovation.eu/blog/new-economies-inclusive-societies-insights-from-a-transit-research-to-policy-seminar
 
Iris Kunze
added 2 research items
First not published research findings on social innovations of the Ecovillage of Schloss Tempelhof from 2014. THe study was done for the social innovation theory reserach project TRANSIT: Availabe online: http://www.transitsocialinnovation.eu/resource-hub/global-ecovillage-network-gen
The chosen case study for transformative social innovation of co-housing is Vauban located in the City of Freiburg, in the state of Baden-Württemberg in Germany. Vauban is not a single co-housing project, but a special model district of sustainable living and participatory planning in which several co-housing initiatives could be realized. This is an extract of the TRANSIT research report on the global co-operative housing movement, the housing cooperative El Hogar Obrero in Buenos Aires, Argentinia and the eco co-housing district Vauban in Freiburg, Germany: Picabea, F., Kunze, I., Bidinost, A., Phillip, A. and Becerra, L (coord.) (2016) Case Study Report: Co-operative Housing. TRANSIT: EU SSH.2013.3.2-1 Grant agreement no: 613169. http://www.transitsocialinnovation.eu/resource-hub/international-co-operative-association-ica
Adina Dumitru
added 2 research items
The Slow Food International Association, founded in Italy in 1986, is present in 160 countries in the world, throughout 1.500 “convivial” (local chapters) formed by 100.000 members (who economically sustain the organization) and 1.000.000 supporters. Slow Food also counts with several national associations (Italy, Germany, Switzerland, USA, Japan, Netherlands, Brazil, Kenya and South Korea), two Slow Food International Foundations: The Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity and the Terra Madre Foundation and one University of Gastronomic Sciences (Italy). Slow Food facilitates and promotes the creation of a network of local communities in both the global North and South. These communities -called “convivia”- share the principles of the Association, focusing their local or regional work on the current “unfair” systems of food production and consumption. Chapter 3 of this study will focus on the Slow Food International Association. The research reviews the origin, evolution and organization of the international network. We also analyse the ambitions, activities and discourses of change developed by the association during its almost 30 years of history. We give special attention to dynamics of transformative social innovation and agency processes that contribute to the movement´s social impact, political influence and capacity for societal transformation, according to the operationalization described in the methodological guidelines (Wittmayer et al 2015). The report also presents the results of empirical research carried out on two local case studies the “Convivium Slow Food Araba-Vitoria” (chapter 4) and the “Convivium Freigburg-Südbaden” (chapter 5). Chapter 4 analyses the “Convivium Slow Food Araba-Vitoria” (created in 2005) is located in the city of Vitoria-Gasteiz, in the Province of Araba, (Basque Country, Spain). This organization has 300 members which carries out an intense activity in the province of Araba, with more than 70 events per year. The convivium is also very well connected to the international network. They were invited to participate in the first Slow Food “Terra Madre” (2004) and have taken part in numerous Slow Food networking activities. The president of Slow Food Araba-Vitoria, Alberto López, is a member of the Slow Food Association´s International Council, in representation of the Spanish convivia, since 2012. Chapter 5 studies the ‘Slow Food’ group Freiburg/Südbaden1 (SFFR) in Germany will be introduced in chapter 5. Founded in 1997, this convivium is one of the first and largest convivia in Germany. The area of the Freiburg convivium covers the far South West of the German federal state of Baden-Württemberg, close to the Swiss and French borders, in the so-called border triangle. Besides the city of Freiburg with its 220.000 inhabitants, it also includes a unique diverse agricultural infrastructure with the vineyards and fruit growing areas of Kaiserstuhl, Markgräfler Land, and Breisgau as well as the Southern Black Forest with traditional lifestock farming rising up to 1.500 m above sea level. Furthermore, a high pressure on land use competes with tourism and a very ecologically minded population of the ‘university city’ Freiburg [extracted from the report's overview]. Chapted 6 establishes a comparison between both local Spanish and German local iniatives and the Slow Food International network. Results show how dynamics and learning, empowerment and agency processes enhance transformative social change in local and regional contexts.
Carla Cipolla
added a research item
The article defines the specific characteristics of urban agriculture (UA) through a literature review and points out the main aspects of the UA to be considered in the development of new products and services. The research process includes the analysis of the activities developed by the the NGO called Multicultural Education Center (CEM) which promotes urban agriculture in a slum (known as Complexo da Penha) in the city of Rio de Janeiro. O artigo define as características específicas da agricultura urbana (AU) por meio de uma revisão da literatura e aponta quais os principais aspectos da AU a serem considerados no desenvolvimento de novos produtos e serviços. O processo envolve a análise das atividades realizadas pelo Centro de Educação Multicultural (CEM) que desenvolve agricultura urbana no complexo de favelas da Penha, na cidade do Rio de Janeiro.
Flor Avelino
added an update
Bonno Pel
added a research item
Social innovation is gaining currency as an answer to contemporary societal challenges. The concept has raised high expectations, but also meets with skepticisms and contestations, however. It has been noted to be a particularly malleable concept. Considering its vulnerability to succumbing under divergent framings and fading away as a passing 'hype', there are attempts to stabilize SI as a scientific category. Whilst agreeing that there are good reasons for such stabilization, this contribution argues that it is at risk of underestimating the framing dynamics involved. Invoking insights from innovation sociology and STS, it is stressed that innovation research inevitably involves challenges of interpretation and performativity. As illustrated through empirical examples from our research on the Social Solidarity Economy, social innovation is a particularly complex kind of innovation, in which the innovation-theoretical observation dilemmas manifest particularly acutely. In the conclusion we reflect on the looming framing aporia in SI research, and draw out wider theoretical and practical implications.
Bonno Pel
added 3 research items
The persistence of current societal problems has given rise to a quest for transformative social innovations. As social innovation actors seek to become change makers, it has been suggested that they need to play into impactful macrodevelopments or “game-changers”. Here, we aim to deepen the understanding of the social innovation agency in these transformation games. We analyze assumptions about the game metaphor, invoking insights from actor-network theory. The very emergence of transformation games is identified as a crucial but easily overlooked issue. As explored through the recent electricity blackout threat in Belgium, some current transformation games are populated with largely passive players. This illustrative case demonstrates that socially innovative agency cannot be presupposed. In some transformation games, the crucial game-changing effect is to start the game by activating the players.
Social innovation, understood as change in social relations, is gaining currency as an answer to contemporary societal challenges. On the account of transformative SI, it can challenge, alter and replace the knowings and doings of existing social structures. There is a duality in SI however, as it unavoidably also draws on and reproduces those. This duality does not warrant skepticism, but calls for critical interpretive analysis. Approached critically, social innovation is neither reduced to a magic panacea nor to an ideological ploy. It is just a set of practices in which structure-agency dialectics are particularly intricate and dynamic. This paper elucidates the aforementioned SI duality through a closer examination of its multiple dimensions. SI can be seen to involve new ways of doing, organizing, framing and knowing. Insights from Science and Technology Studies remind us that these dimensions are co-constitutive and co-productive: new doing presupposes a degree of new knowing, for example. Nevertheless, these four dimensions are sufficiently distinct from each other to help untangle empirical cases of innovation-reproduction duality and, at the same time, subject the four-dimensional heuristic to critical testing. The paper presents a case study on the Basic Income, as a social innovation with strong transformative ambitions towards a re-constituted social security. The principled advocacy for it has evoked somewhat intractable controversies about expected effects. However, there is also a recent trend towards more pragmatic approaches. Whether through crowdfunding or governmental experimentation, these initiatives seem to bypass the principled debates and aim for concrete demonstrations instead. ‘Just do it’, seems to be the motto. Mistrusted as watering down by principled Basic Income advocates, eagerly followed by media and attractive for local governments, the involved protagonists clearly struggle to untangle the innovative and reproductive ramifications of this shift in approach. This debate is clarified and deepened by highlighting how new forms of activism and experiments entail shifting dimensions of social innovation.
Carla Cipolla
added a research item
DESIS (Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability) is a network of design labs, based in design schools and design-oriented universities, actively involved in promoting and supporting sustainable change. The higher ambition of DESIS Network is to generate an Open Design Program able to give different projects visibility, to facilitate their alignments, collaborations and synergies and, on these bases, to develop these visions and projects. It means to produce knowledge with the contribution of different partners (open processes) and that can be used by all stakeholders (open results). If a worldwide movement towards sustainability calls for the best possible use of all existing resources, DESIS finds in the design schools its major resource. DESIS Labs are made up of teams of professors, researchers and students based in design-oriented universities. DESIS Network as a transformative social innovation DESIS Network’s main aim is to use design to trigger, enable and scale-up social innovation. That is: to enhance its potential; to raise its visibility; to facilitate its transferability; to increase its synergy; and to stimulate new initiatives. With local, regional and global partners, it wants to co-create socially relevant scenarios, solutions and communication programs related to social innovation that are adequate to the great challenges of contemporary society.
Flor Avelino
added a research item
This is a working paper from the early stages of the TRANSIT project. More recent accounts are Avelino, F., Wittmayer, J. M., Pel, B., Weaver, P., Dumitru, A., Haxeltine, A., ... & O'Riordan, T. (2019). Transformative social innovation and (dis) empowerment. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 145, 195-206. Pel, B., Haxeltine, A., Avelino, F., Dumitru, A., Kemp, R., Bauler, T., ... & Jørgensen, M. S. (2020). Towards a theory of transformative social innovation: A relational framework and 12 propositions. Research Policy, 49(8), 104080.
Flor Avelino
added an update
Last month, TRANSIT hosted a conversation at the European Social Innovation Week in Tilburg, The Netherlands as part of its efforts to co-create its final conference. We were joined by a unique and diverse group of social innovators and researchers, both from our networks and the wider community to delve into this topic and gather input that will help us formulate a concept that gives all potential participants the space they need to play an active role throughout the conference.  See summary here: http://www.transitsocialinnovation.eu/blog/co-producing-a-transformative-research-conference
 
Julia Wittmayer
added a research item
Continuing economic turbulence has fuelled debates about social and political reform as much as it has stimulated actions and initiatives aimed at a more fundamental transition of dominant economic systems. This paper takes a transition perspective to explore, from a Western European viewpoint, how the economic crisis is actually viewed through a variety of interpretations and responded to through a range of practices. We argue that framing societal phenomena such as the economic crisis as "symptoms of transition" through alternative narratives and actions can give rise to the potential for (seemingly) short-term pressures to become game changers. Game changers are then defined as the combination of: specific events, the subsequent or parallel framing of events in systemic terms by engaged societal actors, and (eventually) the emergence of (diverse) alternative narratives and practices (in response to the systemic framing of events). Game changers, when understood in these terms, help to orient, legitimize, guide, and accelerate deep changes in society. We conclude that such dynamics in which game changers gain momentum might also come to play a critical role in transitions. Therefore, we argue for developing a better understanding of and methodologies to further study the coevolutionary dynamics associated with game changers, as well as exploring the implications for governance.
Carla Cipolla
added a project goal
TRANSIT is a European Community funded (FP7) research initiative, responding to the call for research on "Social Innovation: empowering people, changing societies". It is coordinated by DRIFT (Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands), and involves twelve separate research institutes from across Europe and Latin-America (including the UFRJ/Coppe DESIS Lab). It aims to develop a theory of transformative social innovation, by studying how networks of social entrepreneurs and families of social innovation projects contribute to systemic societal change.