Panel 43

Social Innovation: Forms, Evidence, and Perspectives



Topics: Knowledge co-creation, citizens science, co-design processes, material publics and grassroot innovation; Innovation imaginaries, practices and policies; Ethics, innovation and responsibility in technoscience; The value of science, technology, innovation and research practices

Keywords: responsible innovation, social value, social collaboration, social change, community development

Social Innovation (SI) continues to gain importance as an alternative paradigm to other forms of innovation, focusing on generating social value and not just private value. The interest in SI can be seen in the growing academic literature of the last two decades. Likewise, it is included in various political speeches of international organizations such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United Nations, the European Commission, The World Economic Forum, among others. SI is often introduced as the most convenient paradigm to face the social, economic, political, and environmental challenges of the 21st century. Although certain academic literature presumes various positive experiences of SI, frequently, it is difficult to find clear conceptions about what it means with evidence that shows its existence and effectiveness. In general, when talking about SI, it is presented as an aspiration. Various criticisms are frequently mentioned in the available studies. It has been said that the body of literature is inconsistent, ambiguity persists in the term, and that it is not clear whether it should be considered as a phenomenon or a theoretical framework. Despite all, the current global context requires SI to reduce the problems that are common to everyone. Problems such as climate change, the eradication of poverty, gender equity, cannot be tackled without forms of social collaboration and innovation. In response to this outlook, through this open panel we invited STS scholars to join a discussion on SI. The STS analyze ways in which science and technology is constructed and distributed. Likewise, there are some efforts to promote cross-fertilization of STS and other studies on Innovation and Technology, for instance Hess, D. J., & Sovacool, B. K. (2020). Sociotechnical matters: Reviewing and integrating science and technology studies with energy social science. Energy Research & Social Science, 65, 101462. Our discussion aims at fostering cross-fertilization of such theoretical frameworks to explore cases that present construction and application of scientific-technological knowledge that clearly finds social benefits (one example is the case described in Stewart, H., & Watson, N. (2020). A sociotechnical history of the ultralightweight wheelchair: a vehicle of social change. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 45(6), 1195-1219.). In this way, contributions from various disciplinary fields will be welcome; specially those that present empirical research results that uncover evidence-based forms of social innovation.