The Role of Participatory Action Research in Social Innovation – New Challenges for Social Sciences

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 08:30
Oral Presentation
Jürgen HOWALDT, TU Dortmund, Germany
The importance of social innovation in successfully addressing social, economic, political and environmental challenges of the 21st century is recognised not only within the Europe 2020 strategy but also on a global scale. As a novel approach to address complex problems in global health, social care, education, energy, and environmental policies, social innovation has been embraced by stakeholders and communities on the local, regional and even national level.

But what are the conditions under which social innovations flourish? Who are the stakeholders and in what capacity do they understand and develop social innovation? In light of the increasing importance of social innovation, this paper explores the question of what (new) roles social sciences play in analyzing and shaping social innovation.

On the basis of the first results of the global research project SI-DRIVE the paper gives an overview of the current situation and the perspectives of social innovation research in social innovation processes (Howaldt et al. 2016). It argues that social sciences will be challenged to redefine their functions with regard to innovation. In the past, innovation research in the context of social sciences has contributed heavily to explain the social dimensions, the complexity and paradoxes of innovation processes. Henceforth, much will depend on realigning the range of competencies of social science as well as social scientists by contributing actively to the development and integration of innovations as well as by developing social innovation. Against that background participatory approaches that promote participation and empowerment of civil-society actors are indispensable.


Howaldt, J.; Schröder, A.; Kaletka, C.; Rehfeld, D.; Terstriep, J. (2016). Mapping the World of Social Innovation: A Global Comparative Analysis across Sectors and World Regions. A deliverable of the project: “Social Innovation: Driving Force of Social Change” (SI-DRIVE).