Inclusive Innovation: A Systems Theoretic Perspective

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 09:15
Location: Hörsaal 15 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Eva BUCHINGER, Innovation Systems, Austrian Institute of Technology AIT, Austria
Inclusive innovation is nowadays a catchword in political strategies such as of the OECD, the World Bank, and the European Union. Because of its diverse use, the underlying theoretical foundation is somewhat blurred. This contribution aims at clarifying the concept of inclusive innovation on the basis of social systems theory (N. Luhmann, R. Stichweh). Inclusive innovation can thereby occur on several system levels: basically on the level of interaction systems (face-to-face), followed by the level of organization systems (membership) and – most close to the above mentioned political concern – on the level of function systems such as education, economy, health etc. Therefore, the focus will be on the latter. Inclusive innovation on the level of function systems can unfold in four steps. First, identify weakly included (or even excluded) societal groups (elderly people, unemployed youth, migrants etc.). Second, ensure that weakly included groups do have a reasonable chance to be included (good education, reasonable jobs, optimal health-care etc.). Third, consider the (possible) necessity of innovations especially designed to better integrate the weakly included (i.e. social innovations such as micro-credits or product innovations such as easy useable, cheap equipment especially designed for the weakly integrated). Forth, enable participation in the development of future benefits and services which these function systems provide (via ‘open innovation’, ‘distributed innovation’, ‘user innovation’ etc.). From a systems theoretical perspective it is most striking that a person (i.e. an embodied psychic system with a social ‘persona’) is usually not fully integrated in every function system (e.g. as it may be true for the science system). Therefore, the concept of inclusive innovation may also not be treated as a universal demand. This contribution will discuss the above mentioned four steps of inclusive innovation in relation to the specific conditions of different functions systems.