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INSITE and Social Innovation

INSITE and Social Innovation

David Avra Lane
INSITE Final meeting 9-10 May 2014, Venice


Insite Project

May 09, 2014


  1. INSITE and Social Innovation David Avra Lane INSITE Final meeting

    9-10 May 2014, Venice
  2. The Innovation Society Ideology 1 Western society’s superiority lies in

    its capacity to innovate: that is, for entrepreneurs to bring to market new artifacts – products and services – that enrich the lives of their consumers.
  3. Innovation Society Ideology 2 Innovation is the motor of economic

    growth, and economic growth means more jobs – and hence more wherewithal for consumers to buy artifacts that enhance the quality of their lives, and profits for entrepreneurs to invest in further innovation.
  4. Innovation Society Ideology 3 The price to pay for not

    innovating, or for subordinating innovation to other values (like culture or social justice), is prohibitively high: competition, at the level of firms and national economies, dooms dawdlers to failure, which translates into economic decline and social chaos.
  5. Innovation Society Ideology 4 The primary role of public policy

    is to enhance economic growth, as measured by GNP, by priming the pump of innovation.
  6. Cascades and crises Western society has been rocked by a

    series of crises, from financial collapse through global warming to youth unemployment.
  7. Cascades and crises The Innovation Society Ideology assumes that innovations

    (that is, new artifacts) solve social problems. It ignores the fact that every such “solution” has the potential to generate many new problems!
  8. Cascades and crises This cascade of problems-solutions- problems is endogenous

    to Innovation Society dynamics.
  9. The metacrisis The proliferation of social crises is the Innovation

    Society’s metacrisis.
  10. Social innovation • The increasing call for social innovation is

    a response to this metacrisis. • From within the Innovation Society… – focus on individual “innovations” – key figure in dynamics of change is the social innovator (entrepreneur)
  11. The systemic challenge Can social innovation help us move beyond

    the Innovation Society and its metacrisis?
  12. Understanding innovation dynamics The unit of analysis must be innovation

    cascades and the positive feedbacks that drive them – NOT individual innovations.
  13. Ontological uncertainty Innovation cascades are characterized by ontological uncertainty: it

    is often impossible to predict what kinds of new patterns of social interaction, new conceptual categories and new artifacts will emerge – or who will be affected by them and how…
  14. Implications for social innovation • All innovation processes are social

    • The social effects of innovation processes are highly unpredictable the social innovator’s intentions to move in a socially positive direction are no guarantee that the project will have effects that are socially positive – never mind those envisioned!
  15. Principle 1 SOCIAL VALUES, NOT ECONOMIC VALUE, should be the

    principal driver of social innovation projects.
  16. The problems of plurality • Which values? – Even for

    a single individual, some consequences may be positive with respect to some valuing principles and negative with respect to others… – Ontological uncertainty makes it impossible to define a priori all the possible social consequences of the ensuing cascade – and the key social values that an individual would bring to bear to evaluate these consequences • Need for self-reflexivity on the part of project participants
  17. The problems of plurality • Whose values?

  18. Principle 2 EVERYONE COUNTS: The processes that guide the evolution

    of innovation projects must take into account the consequences to and values of all the participants in the project.


  21. Strategic requirement 1 At the microlevel, to develop a process

    for the dynamic evaluation of social innovation projects.
  22. Strategic requirement 2 At the mesolevel, to develop scaffolding structures

    that allow microlevel projects to • learn from one another’s experiences, • establish links among them that are likely to lead to generative relationships, and • mediate between the social innovation world and macrolevel entities in the public sector, the corporate world, and the world of civil society organizations.
  23. Strategic requirement 3 At the macrolevel, to construct compelling narratives

    that make clear that we must move beyond the Innovation Society – and highlight the role that social innovation must play in bringing about the necessary organizational and cultural changes to make it happen.
  24. Some INSITE-related initiatives • Dynamic evaluation – process and tools

    • Tools for managing networks of social innovators • Identity-based local development