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Transformative Social Innovation Theory project

Final Report Summary - TRANSIT (Transformative Social Innovation Theory project)

Executive Summary:
In 2013, the European Union invited the scientific community to more systematically study the role of social innovation in addressing societal challenges. This call was linked to an increasing interest in the ways that social innovation could contribute to solutions to many of the problems associated with government budget cuts, stagnating economies, high unemployment, and other pressing social needs and environmental concerns. Starting from a contention that ‘business as usual’ approaches were not enough, a group of researchers joined forces to better understand the relation between social innovation and transformative social change.
Under the banner of the TRANSIT project, our aim was to develop a theory of transformative social innovation (TSI theory) that is useful not only to academics, but also to policy makers, social entrepreneurs, and other stakeholders. The starting point was the need to understand how social innovations that address urgent societal challenges such as economic crises, climate change or migration contribute to transformative changes. The main research questions were: How, to what extent and under which conditions does social innovation contribute to transformative change? How do we conceptualize and study transformative social innovation? How are people empowered (or disempowered) to contribute to such processes?
TRANSIT puts forth an understanding of social innovation as a process of introducing new social relations, involving the spread of new knowledge and new practices. Social innovation can also be understood as a qualitative property of ideas, objects, activities, and different groupings of people. Transformative social innovation is defined as a process of changing social relations, involving the challenging, altering or replacing of the dominant institutions in a specific context. We identified four ‘clusters’ of processes, covering the different aspects of transformative social innovation dynamics and agency: a) the social relations within social innovation initiatives; b) processes of social innovation network formation; c) the relations to processes of institutional change; and d) the relations to the broader (societal) context. The four interlinked ‘meta-processes’ at different aggregation levels are organizing devices for the key insights from our theory.
To develop TSI theory, TRANSIT drew upon a range of existing theoretical and methodological approaches to innovation and social change, such as middle-range theory building, transition research, social psychology, political theory, institutional theory, and several other fields. Empirically, TRANSIT took an embedded case-study approach and conducted a comparative analysis of social innovation initiatives and networks across Europe and Latin America. We studied 20 social innovation networks and 110+ local initiatives, many of which have explicit transformative ambitions. In doing so, we combined in-depth case-study analysis with the meta-analysis of 450+ critical turning points in the development of social innovation initiatives. TSI theory is thus both grounded in in-depth case-studies as well as tested and solidified in a trans-local data-base.
At the heart of TRANSIT was the transdisciplinary translation of research findings into capacity building tools that were co-developed with policy-makers, civil society organisations and social entrepreneurs. These focused on the themes of governance, social learning, resourcing, monitoring and the changing societal context (game changers).

Project Context and Objectives:
In 2013, the European Union invited the scientific community to more systematically study the role of social innovation in addressing societal challenges. This call was linked to an increasing interest in the ways that social innovation could contribute to solutions to many of the problems associated with government budget cuts, stagnating economies, high unemployment, and other pressing social needs and environmental concerns. Starting from a contention that ‘business as usual’ approaches were not enough, a group of researchers joined forces to better understand the relation between social innovation and transformative social change.
Under the banner of the TRANSIT project, our aim was to develop a theory of transformative social innovation (TSI theory) that is useful not only to academics, but also to policy makers, social entrepreneurs, and other stakeholders. The starting point was the need to understand how social innovations that address urgent societal challenges such as economic crises, climate change or migration contribute to transformative changes. The main research questions were: How, to what extent and under which conditions does social innovation contribute to transformative change? How do we conceptualize and study transformative social innovation? How are people empowered (or disempowered) to contribute to such processes?
TRANSIT aimed to produce a new theory that constituted an advance in the field of social innovation research, but that also translated into operationally useful insights, recommendations, tools, methods and approaches. These were to be generated along four cross-cutting themes. Each theme was elaborated in scientific working papers and then distilled in policy briefs and capacity building tools.
1) Governance. The very concept of ‘governance’ is inherently about empowering other actors besides government to be involved in resolving societal challenges. TRANSIT developed a reflexive governance tool to empower actors to contribute to transformative social innovation processes.
2) Social learning. Social innovation and systemic change inherently require new ways of thinking and doing, which in turn require dedicated learning processes. TRANSIT identified which learning methods and education forms are necessary for enabling transformative social innovation.
3) Resourcing. A major barrier for many social innovation initiatives concerns the lack of available resources, specifically funding within existing financial structures. TRANSIT identified new and innovative resourcing strategies for transformative social innovation.
4) Evaluation & Monitoring. Knowing how and to what extent social innovation initiatives are succeeding in their goals is crucial for initiatives themselves and for enabling and supporting organizations and policy makers. TRANSIT developed a process guiding tool that that can be used in dynamic environments for monitoring & evaluation.

Capacity building activities were to have impact beyond the project’s duration notably via the development of the open source Critical Turning Points database and a web-based resource hub which includes all developed tools for increasing reflexivity and facilitating transformative social innovation processes.
More specific project objectives were set as follows:
• explore the links between social innovation and societies’ capacity to address pressing societal challenges;
• develop a systemic understanding concerning cross-cutting issues in social innovation that policy makers and others should address in order to improve the general framing context for social innovation,
• remove impediments and enable social innovation;
• develop a toolbox of concepts, tools and methods to support policy makers and social innovation actors;
• and, develop lasting networks and resources for supporting social innovation processes.

These project objectives have been translated into a project structure of six work packages.
WP1 – Project management was the operational and strategic heart of the project. It focused on coordinating, developing, integrating and managing the resources of the consortium (financial, scientific, information).
WP2 – Synthesis safeguarded the relevance and applicability of the theoretical work by synthesising insights regarding the four main cross-cutting themes: governance, social learning, resourcing and evaluation & monitoring. The main objective was the transdisciplinary translation of theoretical insights into policy recommendations and practical tools.
WP3 – Theory had the overall objective to iteratively co-produce a middle-range theory of transformative social innovation that is also of practical use for social innovations.
WP4 – Cases and Evidence – In-depth case-studies had the overall objective to collect and analyse in-depth empirical evidence about social innovation. This was done by carrying out in-depth case studies of 20 transnational social innovation networks and 40 of their local, regional, national and international manifestations. It ensured the broad and detailed empirical grounding of the theory development.
WP5 – Cases and Evidence – Meta analysis had the overall objective to collect, analyse and make accessible a high quantity of evidence about social innovation and to conduct a comparative meta-analysis against the research questions identified in WP3 in order to test the theory prototype.
WP6 – Communication & Engagement had the overall objective to communicate the project results, engage stakeholders and facilitate learning and capacity building for social innovation in EU and Latin America.

Project Results:
With the TRANSIT project, we embarked on a journey of theorising transformative social innovation, informed by previous work in transition research, social psychology, political theory, institutional theory, and several other fields, and grounded in the data obtained from new empirical research on some 20 translocal social innovation networks and 110+ related social innovation initiatives; we studied for example the Global Ecovillage Network, as well as individual ecovillages in Germany, Portugal, Scotland and The Netherlands.
In this section, we describe our main results – both in terms of scientific insights and in terms of the societal implications of the research. Scientifically, our research focused on addressing the following questions:
- How do we conceptualize and study transformative social innovation?
- How, to what extent and under which conditions does social innovation contribute to transformative change?
- How are people empowered (or disempowered) to contribute to such processes?
In line with our ambition that insights generated should be relevant to both practice and policy, we produced a series of ‘briefs’ and organised seminars and other forms of interaction with practitioners and policy makers.
We start by describing how the TRANSIT research was conducted (section 3.1). Next, we present some key theoretical insights about the relations between social innovation and transformative social change (section 3.2) followed by some key insights regarding the themes of governance, social learning, resourcing, monitoring and the changing societal context (section 3.3).

3.1. Methodologically advancing the field of transformative social innovation

Social innovation practice is of great societal relevance and therefore deserves to be supported by insights, which are developed in a solid, systematic and reflexive way. TRANSIT has made a dedicated effort to increase the knowledge base regarding research processes, designs and methodologies for researching transformative social innovation. We have done so by reflecting on the specific methodological challenges encountered, and finding ways to address these challenges.
Our three main methodological advances covered: 1) stepwise ‘middle range’ theory-building, 2) reflection on the appropriate units of analysis, and 3) the construction of an online database on ‘critical turning points’ in transformative social innovation processes.
In addition, we contributed to the further consolidation of the social innovation research field by engaging in discussions with other researchers on methodological challenges and the necessary advances for social innovation research.

Developing a ‘middle range’ theory of social innovation
Discussions in social innovation research frequently call for either more ‘solid’ theory on social innovation, or for theory that ‘empowers’ social innovation practice. TRANSIT sees the two as going hand in hand: any truly practical advice will have to account for the fact that transformative social innovation is a dynamic and complex phenomenon. From early on in the research, we sought to identify the ‘pitfalls’ involved in building theory on transformative social innovation. One is easily misled, for example, when taking a single case as a basis for talking about social innovation more generally. Or when reducing narratives about social innovation to the activities of certain innovation ‘heroes’. Or when naively assuming that the impact of social innovation is inherently desirable for all stakeholders, in all aspects and in all stages.
One important way of confronting these pitfalls is by opting for a ‘middle range’ theory approach. This is a way to strike a balance between abstract theorizing and in-depth observation of concrete empirical cases. Crucially, it involves a constant interplay between abstract reasoning and conceptualization, and learning from (sets of) empirical cases. Important milestones in this iterative process were three ‘integration workshops’ at which we collectively confronted our theoretical understandings with insights on the large set of social innovation initiatives that we had studied. These iterations helped us to achieve an understanding of transformative social innovation that avoided potential pitfalls. The theory is informed by practices ranging from social enterprises to progressive governments. It acknowledges that transformative social innovation can originate in a community context, but also through businesses or government. It articulates some of the inherent ambiguities of social innovation, such as the fact that social innovation initiatives both transform society, and are themselves transformed by society, and that, rather than simply implementing a clear-cut set of solutions, transformative social innovation is a process to reflexively guide.
Further reading: Haxeltine, A., Pel, B., Wittmayer, J.M. Dumitru, A., Kemp, R. and F. Avelino (2017) Building a middle-range theory of Transformative Social Innovation; theoretical pitfalls and methodological responses. European Public and Social Innovation Review (2) 1: 59-77.

Reflection on appropriate units of analysis
Social innovation, like innovation more generally, is the result of the activities of many different individuals and organizations. Nowadays this is almost common sense: whilst passionate individuals come up with certain ideas, numerous ensuing activities, including marketing, certificating, testing, refining or lobbying are needed for these to gain prominence. Still, it remains a challenge to live up to this understanding of networked innovation in the empirical investigation of social innovation: Where to look? Which actors and activities to follow? How to handle the camera (the lens of inquiry) when there are several relevant scenes and actors entering the stage? Or in methodological terms: What are the relevant units of analysis? In our work, we focused on social innovation initiatives as focal protagonists and conceived of them as part of globally connected social innovation networks. We studied their socially innovative ideas, objects and activities as well as their interactions with dynamic contexts.
Further reading: Pel, B., Dorland, J., Wittmayer, J.M. and M.S. Jørgensen (2017) Detecting Social Innovation agents. Methodological reflections on units of analysis in dispersed transformation processes. European Public and Social Innovation Review (2) 1: 110-126

Critical Turning Points database and meta-analysis
A frequently lamented barrier for developing systematic insights about social innovation is the focus on single cases – adding up to a body of available evidence which is anecdotal and fragmented in nature. TRANSIT has seized the opportunity to move beyond that. Our open-access online database on Critical Turning Points (CTP) in Transformative Social Innovation provides qualitative accounts of more than 450 ‘critical’ episodes in the evolution of 80+ social innovation initiatives in 25+ different countries. This database contains timelines, and accounts of phases and turning points as well as interactions between social innovation initiatives and various other actors. The focus on turning points helped us to appreciate the conflict between ‘transformative social innovation logics’ and other logics and internal conflicts concerning strategies, the use of money, and the positions of people within the network.
Such CTPs differ from initiative to initiative. For example, the Participatory Budgeting Amsterdam initiative considers the reorganisation of the municipality of Amsterdam as a CTP for their development as it resulted in a setback in their access to financial data from the municipality. For the Impact Hub King’s Cross a change in ownership was considered a CTP as it opened up opportunities to improve its financial situation. For Ecovillage Bergen the discovery of an international ecovillage network and the existence of other ecovillages was a CTP as it encouraged the founder to continue with developing an ecovillage.
The database provided us with the possibility to refine our ‘middle range’ theory propositions as part of our theory development. However, the usefulness of the database goes beyond that. The database will remain as an online resource after the formal end of the research project. Researchers can use the data for exploring and developing new insights on transformative social innovation. Entrepreneurs, activists and policymakers can gain insights into and learn from how (other) social innovation initiatives navigated CTPs in their development. The CTP accounts, are based on interviews with members of social innovation initiatives and are all structured along six basic topics. The database allows for targeted searches, with a set of key words that address the core themes in transformative social innovation theory.
Further reading: Pel, B., Bauler, T., Avelino, F., Backhaus, J., Ruijsink, S., Rach, S., Jørgensen, M. S., Kunze, I., Voss, G., Dumitru, A., Lema Blanco, I., Afonso, R., Cipolla, C., Longhurst, N., Dorland, J. Elle, M., Balázs, B., Horváth, J., Matolay, R., Wittmayer, J., Valderrama Pineda, A., Serpa, B., Rösing Agostini, M., Lajarthe, F., Garrido, S., Picabea, F., Moreira, J., Trentini, F., Bidinost, A., Weaver, P., Heimann, R., Skropke, C., Hoffmeister, K.L. Tawakol, D., Olivotto, V., Tsatsou, A., Zahed, Y., Moet, R., Zuijderwijk, L., Renema, J. and Kemp, R. (2017) The Critical Turning Points database; concept, methodology and dataset of an international Transformative Social Innovation comparison. TRANSIT Working Paper #10.

Methodological challenges in social innovation research
Recent years have seen substantial efforts towards theory-building and conceptual clarification of social innovation research. These efforts contributed to a further consolidation of social innovation as a research field. Taking a related angle, TRANSIT researchers put the spotlight on the underlying methodologies and logics of inquiry.
What are the main methodological challenges in social innovation research, and how can they be addressed? These were the underlying questions that were addressed during a workshop that was organized in February 2017 by TRANSIT researchers featuring 23 researchers to share, discuss and reflect on different approaches for researching social innovation. Based on this workshop, TRANSIT researchers prepared a special issue of the European Public and Social Innovation Review. The special issue features eight contributions from the main methodological orientations in social innovation research, namely systematic knowledge development and action-oriented research. Each contribution discusses particular methodological challenges and advances. Think about the need to address the essentially contested character of the concept of social innovation, the fluidity of units of analysis as well as the commitment to make the plurality of the voices of those involved in social innovation heard.
The editorial synthesis by DRIFTers Julia Wittmayer and Flor Avelino together with colleagues from the Université Libre Brussels, Bonno Pel and Tom Bauler, takes stock and elicits the broader significance of these contributions for social innovation research. It discusses the contributions along the normative, temporal and comparative dimensions of methodology choices, which are salient to social innovation research without being tied to any specific methodological tradition. As such, these witness the editors’ commitment to transcend the methodological fragmentation of the social innovation research field and open up a methodological discussion through a methodologically pluralist stance.
Further reading: Wittmayer, J.M. Pel, B., Bauler, T. and F. Avelino (2017) Methodological challenges for Social Innovation Research. European Public and Social Innovation Review (2)1: 1-16.

3.2. Theoretically advancing the field of (transformative) social innovation
TRANSIT focused on studying the link between social innovations and transformative change. We approached social innovation (SI) as a process of introducing new social relations, involving the spread of new knowledge and new practices (where the newness is a matter of degree and perspective). Examples are: the trading of services against hours through a TimeBank, the influencing of local government budgets through participatory budgeting, or the practice of social entrepreneurs sharing a physical space and working towards collective social goals through Impact Hubs. Social innovation can also be understood as a qualitative property of ideas, objects, activities, and different groupings of people. A social innovation initiative is a collective of people working on ideas, objects or activities that are socially innovative, and a social innovation network is a network of such initiatives.
Transformative social innovation is defined as a process of changing social relations, involving challenging, altering or replacing the dominant institutions in a specific context. Participatory Budgeting redefines the relations between citizens and local government by challenging who decides on the spending of public money – in cities such as Porto Alegre in Brazil it is not the local government but the citizens who are taking budget decisions. Transformative social innovation exists in a reciprocal relationship with the transforming context; transformative social innovation individuals, initiatives and networks shape, and are also shaped by, changing social relations and the associated institutional dynamics. Throughout the more than 25 years that participatory budgeting is practiced in Porto Alegre, it has been undergoing changes, which can be closely related to the ruling party’s political orientation.
To develop a theory of transformative social innovation, we studied a broad range of social innovation networks and local initiatives, many of which have explicit transformative ambitions. We identified four ‘clusters’ of processes, covering the different aspects of transformative social innovation dynamics and agency: a) the social relations within initiatives; b) processes of social innovation network formation; c) the relations to processes of institutional change; and d) the relations to the broader (societal) context. These four clusters provided a useful way of organising the development of theoretical insights around four interlinked ‘meta-processes’ at different aggregation levels, that are each important to the overall dynamics and agency of the ‘transformative social innovation journey’. Key insights from the transformative social innovation theory are therefore presented around each of these four clusters.

Relations within social innovation initiatives
Social innovation actors are dissatisfied with current institutionalized social relations – such as individualisation or social alienation. This motivates them to search for new arrangements that better satisfy their needs for autonomy, relatedness and competence. They strive to create and practice different social relations based on values of trust, intimacy, and connection in their initiatives. Social innovation initiatives often are aware that interpersonal relations are important, also as a basis of societal change. Such awareness leads to explicit strategies for working on such interpersonal relations, constituting social innovation initiatives as spaces for experimentation with alternative social relations.
Elaborating a common identity is a key challenge for a new social innovation initiative—it defines the boundaries of the initiative and constructs it as a social actor. For individual members, it provides a sense of belonging and meaning, while being a source of support when difficulties are encountered. At the level of the collective, it provides a means to overcome differences and tensions arising from previously defined roles and relations among members. Social innovation initiatives such as credit cooperatives, Slow Food, Impact Hub, or RIPESS, gather politically divided actors such as religious and environmental organizations, farmers and chefs, and other entrepreneurs together under a new collective identity, thus enabling a re-configuring of social relations and of collective agency.
In their initial development, social innovation initiatives strive to create spaces for reflexive experimentation with alternative values, practices, and interpersonal relations. They do so for example by using governance approaches such as sociocracy (Ecovillage Bergen), holacracy (Impact Hub Amsterdam) or do-ocracy (Hackerspaces). As they grow, they adjust their strategies through interaction with the broader context. This involves the danger, that their organizational forms and practices can come to embody the very institutions they reacted against in the first place. Doing so, they thus run the risk of becoming disempowering and losing their ‘alternative’ appeal. Social innovation initiatives must find ways to navigate this dilemma if they are to remain empowering and attractive to members.

Network formation
As social innovation initiatives emerge and develop as empowering collectives of transformation-minded individuals, they will build a network with related social innovation initiatives and actors supportive of their social innovation. Local social innovation initiatives tend to empower themselves and gain access to resources by connecting, joining or initiating networks of like-minded initiatives. We observed four distinct mechanisms for empowerment: a) funding; b) legitimacy; c) knowledge sharing, learning, and peer support; and, d) visibility and identity. Being a member of the Impact Hub network allows individual Impact Hubs to provide its members access to not only a worldwide network of working places but also a worldwide community of like-minded people. They can tap into the IT infrastructures, logos and branding provided by the network as well as the shared identify of social entrepreneurs aiming for positive social impact.
Social innovation networks engage in active ‘branding’ through logos, websites, slogans, etc. They accelerate and disseminate their specific social innovations through a diverse range of mapping exercises, learning platforms, discussion sites and re-tweeting circuits. However, these activities imply a complex dynamics of ‘translation’ (creation of hype, diversification of framings, emergence of parallel social innovation initiative, etc.) which can lead to fragmentation and disempowerment of social innovation initiatives.
Related to networking, social innovation initiatives and networks thus face the challenge of how to spread new ideas, values and practices while prevent to ‘water them down’. This leads to the dilemma that to be successful social innovation actors need to create collective identities through their networks but in doing so these identities ‘dilute’ and become less coherent.

Engaging with institutional change
In attempting to challenge, alter or replace existing institutions, social innovation initiatives need to be aware of two things. They need to consider which existing institutions to transform and how to actively draw upon and recombine them. The result are new ‘hybrid’ alternatives. The Impact Hub Amsterdam for example, challenges the strict division between for-profit and non-profit in the current economic system by efforts to get ‘social enterprise’ recognized as a legal entity in its own right in the Netherlands. As ‘institutional entrepreneurs’ or ‘systems entrepreneurs’ they need to ‘play the field’ to make it more conducive to their vision for change.
To this end, they combine strategies, and adapt and update them in response to changing circumstances. Strategies observed included: advocacy, lobbying, and protesting to promote changes to existing institutions; the provision of local alternative arrangements that can either supplement or ‘shadow’ existing arrangements; attempting to directly embed a social innovation into existing institutional arrangements; manoeuvring for advantage within the field of relations that they operate in; and engaging in discourse formation around the need for specific institutional changes.
Over time, the narratives and nature of activities may change, as happened in the case of the Transition movement, which originally consisted of local groups preparing for an ‘energy descent’: a radical reduction in energy usage in the face of e.g. climate change and ‘Peak Oil’. They did so through the development of more localised systems of production and consumption such as local food provision (e.g. community supported agriculture schemes), community energy, and new ways of resourcing such as community currencies, etc. The ‘innovation’ was mainly in how these elements were brought together in novel combinations that suited the specific circumstances faced. After the financial crisis of 2008 (and subsequent austerity measures) and the receding of Peak Oil as a compelling narrative in public discourse, the emphasis shifted towards ‘local economic resilience’; thus, both the narrative and the focus of efforts were adapted significantly in response to developments in the context. As well as acting locally, the Transition movement has cooperated strategically at the EU level in e.g. the ECOLISE network to explicitly influence policy-making.
However, interactions with dominants institutions come with dangers of ‘co-option’ or ‘capture’. The dilemma is that social innovation initiatives may find themselves trying to change the very institutional arrangements which they rely on to sustain their existence. Despite the dangers of co-option or capture, doing something that incumbents consider to be important or that fits with their agendas, can lead to better access to vital resources. Without a strong interaction with incumbents, there is much less potential for having a transformative impact on the wider society. Such co-option and capture dilemmas not only lead to confrontation, but can also lead to reflections that are critically important for finding a balance between on the one hand becoming overly dogmatic by sticking too rigidly to core values, or, on the other hand, being exploited by the status quo and giving up on core values too easily.

Relations to the broader societal context
Transformative social innovation is shaped by broader contextual developments. Important contemporary developments include: the rise of network society through ICT and new social media, demographic change, migration, growing inequalities, emancipation, transformation of work and social welfare, and the marketization of society.
Transformative social innovation involves not a single transformation but diverse transformations based on different social relations, values and ideas of progress. Diversity of directions, institutional forms, ways of funding and collaboration are an integral and inherent element of the social transformations that are enacted and aspired to as part of TSI. This diversity of transformation processes, not only forms a backdrop to how transformative social innovation manifests in real-word change processes, it also has important implications for the dynamics of transformation processes. If things go well, and transformative ambitions start to be realised, this can lead to further empowerment, and further impetus for change. If things go in the other direction, and transformative ambitions are not realised, this can lead to a loss of motivation, and a loss of faith in the currently proposed alternatives.
The dilemma here is that proposals about a ‘basic income’ or ‘science for society’ for example may get accepted but for the wrong reasons, e.g. for cutting public spending or for making scientists work for commercial business. We may thus get transformations of the ‘wrong kind’, even when starting with the right intentions. There are other (often more powerful) dynamics in the societal context, that greatly influence how a transformative social innovation takes root and is adapted into the societal context.
Further reading:
Haxeltine, A., Pel, B., Dumitru, A., Avelino, F., Kemp, R., F., Bauler, T., Kunze, I., Dorland, J., Wittmayer, J., and Jørgensen, M.S. (2017) “Towards a TSI theory: a relational framework and 12 propositions”. TRANSIT working paper #16.
Avelino, F., Wittmayer, J.M. Pel, B., Weaver, P., Dumitru, A., Haxeltine, A., Kemp, R., Jørgensen, M.S. Bauler, T., Ruijsink, S. and T. O’Riordan (in press), Transformative Social Innovation and (Dis)Empowerment, Technological Forecasting and Social Change.
Haxeltine, A., Kemp, R., Cozan, S., Ruijsink, S., Backhaus, J., Avelino, F. and A. Dumitru (2015) How social innovation leads to transformative change – Towards a theory of transformative social innovation. TRANSIT Brief 3.

3.3. Increasing the knowledge base and reflexivity of the social innovation community
Ensuring the societal relevance of our research has been a common theme throughout the project. We focused specifically on making our research relevant for those people engaging in the social innovation networks and initiatives under study. In addition to the opportunities for transformative change arising from a changing context, the topics of governance, social learning, resourcing and monitoring were considered important entry points, which served to specify different dimensions of empowerment processes.
Key insights about a transforming societal context
In TRANSIT, we paid attention to the interactions of social innovation initiatives with the wider context in the case analyses. We also convened an expert workshop to increase our understanding of the broader societal context using the concept of ‘game-changer’ in different geographical contexts. The questions that inspired this 2-day academic workshop organized by TRANSIT in September 2014 were: How do we make sense of the societal game-changers of our times? How do economic trends, climate change, technological revolutions and other such macro-developments relate to social change and innovation as manifested in context-specific initiatives?
25 scholars gathered to discuss the role of ‘game-changers’ in transformative social innovation processes, from the perspective of various interdisciplines and world regions. The focus of the workshop was on unpacking and discussing – both theoretically and empirically – the global ‘game-changers’ of our times (e.g. climate change, economic crises, increasing inequality, ageing and health, migration) and to explore how these game-changers relate to different forms of social innovation and transformative change. Subsequently, TRANSIT researchers acted as guest editors of Ecology & Society to collect the insights from the workshop in nine paper contributions in an open access special issue. These contributions place game-changers at relatively high levels of aggregation, with the majority being of global or international nature, and they consider game changes as either (1) (economic) ‘crises’, (2) national policy interventions, or (3) the intertwinement of the social and material – both in ‘socio-technical’ and in ‘socio-ecological’ terms. The editorial discusses main points across these contributions, such as the possibility as well as limits of the ‘game’ metaphor, the different perspectives on the role of agency with regards to game-changers and the intertwinement of social innovations and game-changers with socio-material elements across socio-spatial scales.
Further reading:
Avelino, F., Wittmayer, J.M. Kemp, R. and A. Haxeltine (2017) Game-Changers and Transformative Social Innovation. Ecology & Society. 22(4):41.
Cipolla, C., Afonso, R., Pel, B., Bartholo, R., Silva, E. and D. Proença (2017), Co-produced game-changing in transformative social innovation: reconnecting the ‘broken city’ of Rio de Janeiro, Ecology & Society 22(3):3.
Loorbach, D., Avelino, F., Haxeltine, A., Wittmayer, J. M., O'Riordan, T., Weaver, P. and R. Kemp (2016) The economic crisis as a game-changer? Exploring the role of social construction in sustainability transitions. Ecology and Society 21 (4):15.
Pel, B., G. Wallenborn, and T. Bauler. 2016. Emergent transformation games: exploring social innovation agency and activation through the case of the Belgian electricity blackout threat. Ecology and Society 21(2):17.

One of those game-changers discussed during the workshop that was dominating the wider European context during the project period was the economic recession in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2007-2008. Many of the cases that we studied were already highly critical towards capitalist and neoliberal models, and the economic crises tended to therefore merely serve to confirm the dangers of financialisation and the urgent need for various forms of ‘alternative’ economy. In certain ways the context is becoming more congenial to social innovation: In the UK, performance-based contracts offer opportunities for social innovation initiatives offering services for which the government is prepared to pay; social enterprises are gaining legitimacy; the need for a transformation of the energy system was confirmed by the Paris agreement in 2015; and alternative indicator systems focusing on well-being are under development. In some cases, the networks that we have studied are involved at the forefront of these developments. For example, Timebanks UK managed to create a deal with tax authorities ensuring that Timebank activities are not taxed and allowing benefit claimants to get involved without penalty. Timebanks fulfil an important role with regards to reaching many strata of society but are not yet paid for such services of inclusion, however negotiations take place. There are more of these kinds of opportunities for social innovation initiatives to play into, such as ongoing discussions on a localisation of the economy, responsible business conduct, community-based forms of care, the possible introduction of Basic Income allowing people to work outside the market economy in activities of their choice.
The great humanist Fritz Schumacher, author of Small is Beautiful said: “I cannot predict the wind but I can have my sail ready”. For sailing the winds of change, social innovation initiatives should orient themselves to the greatest possible extent to the realities (both challenges and opportunities) of the changing context that they face.
Following the economic crisis, many observers have stated the need for an alternative narrative as the dominant one of a market economy and state-based protection is becoming less and less compelling. The networks we have studied not only have such narratives about an alternative economy, they are already practicing or experimenting with it – think about the sharing economy, social entrepreneurship, degrowth and relocalisation as well as the solidarity economy. In this context, George Monbiot speaks of a “politics of belonging” uniting people from the right and left, and Henry Mintzberg of the need for “rebalancing society” with an important role for a plural economy. When such narratives take hold the status of social innovation will be elevated. The evolution of democracy will be an important factor in this regard. Recent ‘volatile’ voting behaviours, distrust of experts, identity politics, and growing opposition to exploitative capitalism are all testimony to the turbulence of the present age.
Further reading:
Longhurst, N., Avelino, F., Wittmayer, J., Weaver, P., Dumitru, A., Hielscher, S., Cipolla, C., Afonso, R., Kunze, I. and M. Elle (2016) Experimenting with alternative economies: four emergent counter-narratives of urban economic development. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 22, 69–74.
Wittmayer, J. M., Backhaus, J., Avelino, F., Pel. B., Strasser, T. and Kunze, I. (2015) Narratives of change: how social innovation initiatives engage with their transformative ambitions. TRANSIT working paper # 4.

Key insights about governance
Social innovation is often considered as a beyond-the-state activity, or as a manifestation of new social movements that operate in the shadow of or against the state. But governments have a crucial role to play in creating a favourable environment for non-state social innovation initiatives. The Universal Basic Income exemplifies how some proposals for new social relations are not a matter of ‘supporting grassroots initiatives’ – government will ultimately have to do it. The ‘evidence-based’ activism of the BIEN network shows how academics can contribute significantly, by developing thorough economic underpinning and nuanced moral-political justifications. Likewise, citizens can contribute through civic petitions and awareness-raising meetings; creative social entrepreneurs have crowd-funded individual basic incomes to show glimpses of a possible basic income future, and various local and national-tier governments across the world are warming up for basic income–inspired experiments.
Therefore our understanding of transformative social innovation underlines that it is not just a matter of ‘bottom-up’ initiatives needing support, permission to exist, or regulating frameworks ‘from above’. Social innovation is about the introduction of new ways of doing, organizing, framing and knowing. Obviously, such activities can be initiated from any position in society. Our case research shows how certain positions in society allow for certain kinds of social innovation, whilst others are out of reach.
Important for transformative social innovation governance is that it is about challenging, altering or replacing dominant institutions – whether formal ones such as regulations, or informal ones. The institution of property is redefined and experimented with in initiatives like Timebanks, Shareable, and the members of the International Cooperative Association, but accepted in others. The DESIS network seeks to transform the basic understandings of ‘products’ and their ‘value’ by reconsidering how design practice should be taught in education. Similarly, ecovillages consider education and upbringing as a key in challenging dominant institutions. Transformative social innovation governance should thus be understood as a widely distributed set of activities involving actors outside social innovation networks The recent #metoo outburst illustrates the point clearly: Challenging the notoriously persistent gender imbalance involves governance well beyond government and ‘social innovation initiative’
Further reading:
Pel, B., Weaver, P., Strasser, T., Kemp, R., Avelino, F. and L. Becerra (2015) Governance : co-productions challenges in Transformative Social Innovation. TRANSIT Brief 2.
Pel, B. and T. Bauler (2014) The institutionalization of social innovation: between transformation and capture. TRANSIT working paper # 2.
Pel, B. & Backhaus, J. (forthcoming), Realizing the Basic Income; the promotion of transformative knowings through competing claims to expertise, Science & Technology Studies
Avelino, F. and J.M. Wittmayer (2016) Shifting Power Relations in Sustainability Transitions: A Multi-actor Perspective. Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning, 18:5, 628-649,.

Key insights about social learning
Members in social innovation initiatives learn many things as individuals and reach new worldviews and understandings that have an impact on their behaviors. We speak of social learning, when social innovation initiatives reach new shared meanings, through interaction, collective experimentation and joint reflection, and these become situated in shared norms and practices. Social learning is an important mechanism through which social innovation initiatives contribute to wider transformations. To deal with power struggles many social innovation initiatives put special emphasis on educating their members for cooperation, conflict resolution and gaining social competences.

For fostering social learning and building an alternative to existing social and institutional arrangements, members of social innovation initiatives have to: 1) acquire specific knowledge about how particular institutions and systems work and how they perpetuate values and practices that are not desirable; 2) develop competencies for cooperation and dealing with tensions in order to create new social relations and maintain motivation in the face of obstacles; and, 3) develop effective strategies of engagement with other relevant actors and institutions, in order to achieve their objectives, which often include changing existing states of affairs

Each of those points is shortly illustrated for the case of eco-villages. Ecovillages have invented or elaborated on a range of innovative techniques for fair and participatory decision making processes for avoiding conflict over power imbalances. Ecovillages had to learn to be sensitive towards the reservations of local village residents. In the case of ‘Sieben Linden’, local residents were excited that so many young people would move to their marginal area but they were also sceptical about ideological ambitions. The ecovillage initiative had to ensure that they would respect the local way of living and not try to evangelise or take over too many abandoned houses in the region. And for establishing themselves, ecovillages had to develop new knowledge about shared property, legal frames, appropriate business concepts and constructing eco-buildings.

Networks also play an important role in social learning. They facilitate interactions between practitioners of social innovation initiatives worldwide and thereby provide opportunities for enhanced learning, practical support and the experience of belonging and connectedness. The feeling of being part of a movement can lead to a sense of increased impact. This often leads to new ideas, renewed enthusiasm and stronger motivation for members of local social innovation initiatives. The networks also contribute to their legitimacy.

Further reading:
Dumitru, A., Lema-Blanco, I., Kunze, I., Kemp, R., Wittmayer, J., Haxeltine, A., García-Mira, R., Zuijderwijk, L. and S. Cozan (2017) Social learning in social innovation initiatives : learning about systemic relations and strategies for transformative change. TRANSIT Brief 4.

Key insights about resourcing
To grow and “mushroom” social innovation initiatives must find reliable ways of resourcing particularly their basic costs, and not only for specific activities or one specific project but in a sustained way. External partners may offer those resources but in doing so may come with demands which may undermine the lifeblood of social innovation initiatives.
The resourcing issue is critical to achieving transformative impacts, because without resources there will not be a locally rooted social innovation initiative for people to participate in. Resources can be obtained via three pathways (Weaver and Marks, 2017):
i. External Funding where initiatives seek investment and/or income by delivering services to external sponsors, especially services that help reduce costs on public sector agencies. This comes with clear ties, specified in contracts.
ii. Autonomous Funding where a social innovation initiative develops an own-income stream to self-finance its activities and fund continuity and growth. An example is the use of tuition fees for providing trainings on organic farming in an eco-village.
iii. A strategy of Embedding where the social innovation initiative partners with an existing larger organisation that is wealthier or better funded and with which there is some complementarity of mission. This pathway is used by several Time Banks in the US embedding themselves with Medical Insurers, Hospitals, large faith organisations (Catholic Diocese) and large charities as partners.
There is a risk that any social capital built up gradually and progressively over several years of operation of a social innovation initiative can be lost if a break in funding disrupts operations. The social capital built from earlier years of investment can be lost quickly, but can only be rebuilt slowly.
For social innovation initiatives to expand the resource pool must expand. At present, social innovation initiatives are fishing in the same pond. Competition for grants between and within social innovation initiatives is therefore often a zero-sum game which may discourage cooperation. The processes of competing (often for very small and very short-term grants) and reporting for auditing purposes is a significant diversion and drain on the human resources of social innovation initiatives, including at grassroots level. This needs to be understood by policy makers.
Further reading:
Weaver, P. M., Marks, M. B, Hogan, L., Wittmayer, J., Ruijsink, S., Bacerra, L., Cozan, S., Kemp, R., Strasser, T. and L. Zuijderwijk (2017) Resourcing, monitoring and evaluation: scaling challenges and pathways. TRANSIT Brief 5.
Marks, M. B., Hogan, L. and P. M. Weaver (2017) Success case examples of sustainable social innovation: resourcing strategies in the United States. TRANSIT working paper # 12.
Weaver, P. M. and M. B. Marks (2017) Social innovation resourcing strategies and transformation pathways: a first-cut typology. TRANSIT working paper # 11.

Key insights about monitoring and evaluation
In line with the reasoning of public policy that social innovations can play a role in addressing societal challenges, there is strong interest by government and social impact investors in paying social innovation initiatives for the creation of social impact. This comes along with the need to monitor and evaluate their performance. Ideally monitoring should do two things: 1) showing positive net impact to satisfy funders and 2) obtaining lessons for improving performance through an asset-based approach.
When social innovation initiatives receive public money for taking over or complementing state services (for example in areas of welfare delivery), they have to provide proof of social impact and measure financial performance for reasons of transparency and accountability. One popular tool is the ‘social return on investment’ analysis, a social impact measurement tool in which all benefits are monetarized. Social impact assessments of this kind involve complex matters of attribution and valuation and consume considerable resources. Social innovation initiatives are often indisposed to such method for practical and ideological reasons. They prefer to spend their scarce resources on making impact rather than on measuring it.
For the second goal of monitoring and evaluation, obtaining lessons for doing things in a better way, developmental evaluation may be used (Patton, 2011). Developmental evaluation helps members of a social innovation initiative to reflect on their assets, theory of change, and the mechanisms of change utilised and opportunities and dangers afforded by a changing context. It also accepts that each stage in a social innovation process has different measurement needs, and that therefore the measuring approaches and tools used, such as indicators and metrics, will need to change from one stage to the next.
In general, monitoring should be fit for purpose and maximum efforts should be undertaken to make it so. Action research can be used to find useful ways of monitoring. In action-based forms of evaluation, evaluators do not take distance but immerse themselves in contextual specifics, they “co-create interpretations and arguments, examine the evidence and reason together” (Patton, 2011, p. 287).
Further reading:
Weaver, P. M. and R. Kemp (2017) A review of evaluation methods relevant for social innovation: with suggestions for their use and development. TRANSIT working paper # 14.
Weaver, P. M., Marks, M. B, Hogan, L., Wittmayer, J., Ruijsink, S., Bacerra, L., Cozan, S., Kemp, R., Strasser, T. and L. Zuijderwijk (2017) Resourcing, monitoring and evaluation : scaling challenges and pathways. TRANSIT Brief 5.

Potential Impact:
This section outlines the potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far) and the main dissemination activities and exploitation of results.

Potential Impact:
Summary of how TRANSIT intended and actually addressed the expected impact of the call text.

a) Policy impact
Expected impact: Legitimate and mainstream social innovation in the policy process; put social innovation on the agenda of policymakers and on a par with other forms of innovation; overcome policy marginalization of social innovation; Secure a more level playing field for social innovation relative to other forms of innovation, including in the use of the Structural Funds, thereby making most effective use of these funds in relation to policy priorities.

How TRANSIT intended to address it:
Overcoming the marginalization of social innovation is a matter of helping policy makers to understand and communicate its value, which is not a simple value issue in terms of numbers. TRANSIT will demonstrate that the social element is not simply a means to an end but rather is an important end in itself and something that has social and political value.

How TRANSIT actually addressed it:
TRANSIT contributed to putting social innovation on the policy agenda and making policymakers aware of its opportunities and pitfalls through actively engaging with policy makers using different fora and means:
• The organization of events either specifically for policymakers, such as the Research to Policy Seminar in Brussels or involving policymakers as one of the target groups, such as in the engagement workshops in Europe and Latin America, the synthesis workshops around cross-cutting themes, the Mid-term and Final Conference.
• The development and dissemination of practice briefs and training tools
• Involvement of local and national policymakers in our advisory board and knowledge group
• Increasing reflexivity of policymakers by asking them to be key listeners at the TRANSIT final conference and share their lessons with others through a video
• For TRANSIT, also policymakers are engaging in social innovation, therefore our sample of cases included social innovations in the policy field; such as Participatory Budgeting.
• Policymakers were actively involved during data collection, this dialogue already had an effect in terms of overcoming policy marginalization and made policymakers aware of the importance of social innovation
• Making outcomes and important studies accessible via our web-based resource hub, the critical turning points data-base and the website.

Expected impact: Contribute to the Europe 2020 strategic policy goals of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and Develop the Innovation Union Flagship in respect to its key initiatives of “reinforcing social innovation”

How TRANSIT intended to address it:
This will be done by feeding policy makers with an empirically grounded theory of transformative social innovation, in which social innovations are not viewed in isolation but as part of a nested hierarchy in which innovation of each type is a subset of higher-order innovation. The project will examine the interactions between different types of social innovation and between social innovation and other forms of innovation: how each one reinforces the other, and opportunities for reinforcement. Such synergies have not been the focus of social innovators and social innovation researchers.

How TRANSIT actually addressed it:
TRANSIT increased the visibility of and accessibility of information about many social innovation initiatives and networks. This on the one hand showcased their interrelation with the EU 2020 policy goals. A relevant part of our work focuses on the alternative economic models as well as the mechanisms of inclusion that social innovation initiatives are heralding. On the other hand this contributed to the development of the Innovation Union and the reinforcement of social innovation. Our work also highlighted that social innovation interacts with various other forms of changes.

Expected impact: Contribute to an enabling framing context for social innovation: e.g. establishment of a legal status for social innovators and regulations relating to the employment of volunteers and/or young and inexperienced workers in social innovation initiatives

How TRANSIT intended to address it:
The identification of barriers to social innovation helps to indicate areas for policy intervention. It will also reveal regulatory barriers, the need for funding and legal status. Ideas for policy intervention will be collected and discussed in workshops with social innovators and policy workshops. The issue of work experience for young people will be studied in the project together with the value of volunteering work (both for society and for the people involved)

How TRANSIT actually addressed it:
TRANSIT has developed knowledge about how enabling contexts could look like particularly through the thematic work on Governance, Social Learning, Resourcing and Monitoring & Evaluation. In addition, many of these insights have been co-developed with policymakers (and social innovators) as interviewees, workshop participants as well as members of the Advisory Board and Knowledge Group. TRANSIT has further developed, tested and disseminated five hands-on-tools that directly enable (also inexperienced) social innovation initiatives to improve their performance and position in society.

Expected impact:
Improve policy coherence, strengthen European policy integration and multi-level governance; create better vertical, horizontal and transversal links in implementation between top-down goals and bottom-up initiatives able to deliver on these

How TRANSIT intended to address it:
By taking a multi-level approach to policy, we expect to be able to demonstrate the utility of social innovation in policy implementation and as an instrument of policy integration and multi-level governance. The interaction with governance researchers will help to identify possibilities and difficulties.
How TRANSIT actually addressed it:
Social innovation initiatives are networked and engage with institutions through challenging, altering or replacing these. They thus point out which parts of the (policy) system do not work (effectively) with regard to specific challenges.
TSI theory addresses the relevance of thinking and working across scales and beyond sectors by not cornering social innovation as a bottom-up activity but by showcasing that also the state and the market can be socially innovative. Approaching social innovation as a co-produced phenomenon allows to think beyond scales and focus on the relevant contextual elements.

Expected impact:
Strengthen the effective use of social innovation in international development policy making and implementation, making more effective use of available funds

How TRANSIT intended to address it:
The project has a dual international focus, by studying social innovation in Latin America and interacting with social innovation researchers from the rest of world. Latin America is fully integrated into the research, which can be expected to lead to contextualised lessons and to policy learning. The rest of the world is covered through a special workshop with top quality social innovation researchers from India, Canada and Africa. This is an efficient way of making use of the expertise of international experts.

How TRANSIT actually addressed it:
TRANSIT focused its empirical work primarily on Europe and Latin America. However, its outreach was truly international: a) the majority of workshops included participants from other continents; b) a course drawing on TRANSIT insights was organized in South African with academics, policymakers, entrepreneurs and professionals from Sub-Saharan African countries leveraging funding; c) our meta-analysis of critical turning points also included cases from North America, Asia, Oceania and Africa (WP5); d) our Advisory Board and Knowledge Group included members from outside Europe.

Expected impact:
Contribute to good governance and evidence- based policymaking

How TRANSIT intended to address it:
This will be achieved by empirically grounded generalisations in which special attention is given to governance as a transversal theme and by developing measures, metrics, and evidence of the value of social innovation, which are needed for policy accountability.

How TRANSIT actually addressed it:
Content-wise, TRANSITs research and its transdisciplinary translation work focused on understanding governance processes and structures of social innovation initiatives. In addition, TRANSIT has generated extensive evidence about 20 social innovation networks and 110+ social innovation initiatives. All reports and deliverables are made publicly available along with relevant contributions of third parties via the web-based resource hub. A highlight is the 450+ decisive changes, or Critical Turning Points (CTPs) of social innovation initiatives, which are available via an open-access database, allowing policymakers to search and analyze the data as they seem fit.

b) Social and economic impact at local and supra-local level
Expected impact:

b) Social and economic impact at local and supra-local level
Strengthen the capacity of social innovators

How TRANSIT intended to address it:
This will be achieved by working closely with social innovators in co-development mode and by researching the skills of social innovators and additional skills which need to be developed; develop materials, exchanges, and training sessions to address these; hold engagement workshops and synthesis workshops for practitioners, through which to learn and exchange new insights and practical knowledge on cross-cutting issues such as governance, learning, funding, and monitoring. The project will also provide continuing support to social innovators via the database, resource hub, and the middle range theory tailored to be practical etc.

How TRANSIT actually addressed it:
TRANSIT strengthened the capacity of social innovators through a range of activities & outputs:
• Through TRANSIT’s empirical work, we strived for a reciprocal relationship with the social innovators we were studying – this also led to reflexive engagements strengthening narratives and practices.
• TRANSIT implemented engagement and synthesis workshops and developed training tools on four cross-cutting themes Governance, Learning, Resourcing and Monitoring & Evaluation
• TRANSIT used these tools already at several occasions with social innovators (e.g. Transformations 2017 conference in Dundee UK).
• Next to the project-organized workshops, TRANIST researchers facilitated 112 workshops, gave 53 lectures and seminars and presented 12 keynotes to an audience including social innovators.

Expected impact:
Increase the social resilience of communities at times of hardship

How TRANSIT intended to address it:
TRANSIT will provide evidence of how social innovation increases community resilience through effective responses, especially in times of hardship, and, by taking a prospective approach, will demonstrate a growing need for such initiatives into the future. Already the economic crisis and financial crisis is resulting in unemployment, especially under people leaving schools and people above 55. Globalisation can be expected to bring about rising levels of unemployment of low-skilled workers. Social innovation offers opportunities for people to become active members of society. Civil society based initiatives of care provision and community-based social control help to increase the resilience and happiness of communities.

How TRANSIT actually addressed it:
TRANSIT will provide evidence of the extent and cost- effectiveness of these contributions TRANSIT has studied many social innovations that focus on social resiliency, by making those visible and accessible (through reports, blogs, workshops), TRANSIT contributed to the spread of practices and ideas fostering social resilience.
One of TRANSIT’s key foci was on analyzing whether or not social innovation is empowering, how and for whom. It has gathered evidence of both, empowering and disempowering aspects of social innovation. While it can address issues of unemployment, youth participation, the elderly, poor and marginalized, not all social innovations are equally inclusive. Making this visible and discussable was a major contribution of TRANSIT.

Expected impact:
Facilitate social innovation-based responses to the major societal challenges; facilitate forms of social interaction that build social capital and capacities, empower people, raise awareness, reframe issues, change institutions, and develop a more participative, inclusive and innovative society

How TRANSIT expected to address it:
Our analysis of scaling-up and learning patterns of social innovation between European countries and other world regions, networking research in Europe and third country, developing benchmarking for practices and methods, and learning from good practices, should facilitate transformative social change in the form of “whole systems change” as opposed to the diffusion of individual social innovations.

How TRANSIT actually addressed it:
TRANSIT has studied social innovations that provide responses to major societal challenges, such as the current economic system, the marginalization of certain groups or ecological challenges. By making those visible and accessible, TRANSIT contributed to a diversification of possible answers to societal challenges.
TRANSIT has actively contributed to building a community of social innovation by facilitating respectful social interactions – both online (with thousands of Facebook page likes, nearly 900 followers on twitter, 770 newsletter subscriptions and thousands of visitors on our website) and offline through workshops and conferences.
A major element is the Manifesto for Transformative Social Innovation. This manifesto is a collaborative product of social innovation networks and initiatives and researchers who aim to redirect attention to communities and individuals across the world that are making change on the ground. Their concrete actions give rise to new approaches to e.g. housing, energy, food, mobility, economy and social cohesion. This Manifesto calls upon activists, entrepreneurs, policy-makers and researchers to empower, diffuse and broaden this movement towards more sustainable, just and resilient futures. Three month after the official launch, it has 110+ endorsements by individuals and 25+ by initiatives/companies.

Expected impact:
Facilitate context-sensitive social innovation processes that contribute to public sector reforms that save public money, improve service quality and respond effectively to societal challenges
How TRANSIT intended to address it:
Our valuation of social innovation outcomes give attention to the costs saved and service quality benefits. The evaluation will also consider things which cannot be easily quantified such as social cohesion benefits and reduction of social tensions. These are important not least because sectors such as health and education, which currently engage direct public provision, represent the fastest growing sectors in European economies (Mulgan 2011)

How TRANSIT actually addressed it:
TRANSIT has studied 20 social innovation networks that take up public challenges and develop their own answers – learning from these could contribute to meaningful public sector reform. The most practical form of spreading this knowledge has been through working papers, practice briefs and tools. The insights on Resourcing and Monitoring & Evaluation enable social innovations and public sector institutions to generate value and to monitor and evaluate if and how value generation takes place. In this process we have broadened the concept of resources and value to move beyond a monetary focus.

Expected impact:
Contribute to European economic and social integration and cohesion and “enhance efforts to ensure peace, stability, human rights, mutual understanding, cultural exchanges and economic development”

How TRANSIT intended to address it:
This will be done by providing examples of social innovations across Europe that are successfully working toward an inclusive society able to capture the benefits of European migration, demographic diversity, etc. and that successfully promote social interaction, empowerment, societal change and inclusive, sustainable and smart growth; study these to develop transferable lessons and make recommendations about how such processes can be extended and up-scaled.

How TRANSIT actually addressed it:
Many of the social innovations that TRANSIT studied address issues that are linked to economic and social cohesion, integration, peace and human rights, and more. By studying them, but also by inviting them to workshops and conferences, TRANSIT offered them a platform. Examples are participatory budgeting that is linked to democratization, the seed exchange network that is concerned with biodiversity of seeds and the credit cooperatives that aim at funding economic activities with a desirable social impact. One main focus of engagement and dissemination was building a community of social innovation connecting policy makers, innovators and researchers from across the globe.

Expected impact:
Facilitate context-sensitive social innovation processes that contribute to green growth, sustainable development and economic recovery in the context of economic and financial crisis

How TRANSIT intended to address it:
This will be achieved by context-sensitive lesson drawing and by facilitating knowledge exchange, transfer of good practice, as well as by promoting exchanges among groups involved in social innovations from different cultural contexts to shed light on alternative solutions to sustainable development problems and responses to the economic/financial crisis. The project will also explore opportunities for and modes/models of social finance.

How TRANSIT actually addressed it:
TRANSIT has drawn lessons in respective case study reports on e.g. green energy promotion, solidarity economy and sharing cities. We engaged with actors in those innovation initiatives, sharing our insights with them, but also giving them a platform in our workshops, conferences and our website, where they regularly wrote blog posts.

Expected impact:
Contribute to the development of the single European market

How TRANSIT intended to address it:
TRANSIT will build new networks of social innovators across Europe facilitating geographical extension and up-scaling of successful innovations that transcends national boundaries and borders, with prospects for scale economies and promotion of European-wide exchanges of information, ideas, funds, and skilled people.

How TRANSIT actually addressed it:
The TRANSIT research has demonstrated that, even if social innovations are locally rooted, they think and act beyond borders. This was further stimulated by building a community of social innovators and researchers around the TRANSIT research.

c) Scientific impact

Expected impact:
Contribute to development and strengthening of the European Research Area

How TRANSIT intended to address it:
This will be achieved through a critical mass of resources in terms of collaboration, networking, and mobility of researchers in Europe; engage relevant communities, stakeholders and practitioners in the research; use multi- and trans- disciplinary approaches; employ comparative analyses that take advantage of contextual diversity and the open coordination mode of governance in Europe; make significant use of developments in parallel academic fields, such as social valuation. We also will be contributing to the ERA by making data available via the web-based hub to enable other researchers to address different questions/issues.

How TRANSIT actually addressed it:
The TRANSIT research project has put the European Research Area more prominently on the world map, particularly in the field of social innovation. It involved a true collaboration across various European countries (and beyond) including workshops and events. We also worked closely together with a variety of other European-funded projects (such as SI-DRIVE, CASI, SIMPACT, ITSSOIN).
The web-based resources hub and the critical turning points database remain relevant and accessible, also now the research project is finalized. This also holds for the many open access publications that were realized.

Expected impact:
Accomplish the first comprehensive and systematic review and analysis of the field of social innovation; develop a first body of social innovation theory; develop a pan- European and multi world-region comparative database of cases

How TRANSIT intended to address it:
A major outcome of the project is a new theory of transformative social innovation addressing the relation between social innovations, empowerment, transformative change, and societal challenges. The project will address important gaps in the academic body of work on social innovation (e.g. lack of forward-looking heuristic capacity, a multi-level perspective, engagement in capacity building). It also will address the issue of fragmented case studies in social innovation by comprehensive stock-taking of a focused phenomenon of social innovation, transnational social innovation networks.

How TRANSIT actually addressed it:
The TRANSIT research project resulted in a coherent conceptual framework including 12 clearly formulated propositions. This body of TSI theory is based on an extensive review of literature across various discipline and the systematic analysis of empirical data from 20 social innovation networks and 110+ social innovation initiatives.
The critical turning points database includes 450+ decisive points in the development of 80 cases from across the world and is openly accessible via the TRANSIT website.

Expected impact:
Consolidate Europe in an international leadership role in the field of transformative social innovation.

How TRANSIT intended to address it:
The project can be expected to advance the lead that Europeans scholars have in transitions research and social innovation study, through the research findings and publications that will come out of the project. Transformative social change has been understudied by social innovation researchers and it is here that the project will make a novel, significant contribution.

How TRANSIT actually addressed it:
The European leadership in social innovation became evident through the interest of many non-European scholars in our work. They visited our website, workshops and conferences. Additionally, TRANSIT scholars have been invited to keynote at several occasions about social innovation amongst others in Hong Kong. The focus on transformative change was indeed a key asset of the research.

Expected impact:
Create an international network of scientists interested in transformative social innovation

How TRANSIT intended to address it:
The project will create an interdisciplinary network of scientists advancing a transformative social innovation approach linked to existing networks on social innovation.

How TRANSIT actually addressed it:
TRANSIT linked to various existing research networks and developed joined initiatives with researchers in other EU-funded projects or in research and practice initiatives such as SCORAI (Sustainable Consumption and Research Action Initiative) and SIAC (Social Innovation Acceleration in Cities) that also established linkages to JPI Urban Europe.

Expected impact:
Maximise synergy between path-breaking developments in social innovation and fields like social valuation.

How TRANSIT intended to address it:
Social innovation research so far has not engaged much with social valuation, so anything we do in this direction will advance the knowledge base.

How TRANSIT actually addressed it:
TRANSIT addressed the topic of social valuation through the cross-cutting theme of Evaluation & Monitoring as well as Resourcing, which both resulted in a dedicated workshop, several working papers and TRANSIT briefs.

Expected impact:
Make significant advances in the application and further development of transitions theory.

How TRANSIT intended to address it:
The project will take transitions research further into the field of social change.

How TRANSIT actually addressed it:
The TRANSIT research project has developed a highly significant contribution to social science in general and advanced transitions theory. The theory addresses how social innovation can lead to transformative change and it gives a nuanced account of this process. By doing this it combines a structure and agency perspective as it looks at processes within social innovation initiatives; their network formation; their engagement with institutions and institutional change; and with the socio-material context.

Expected impact:
Achieve 15+ publications in peer-reviewed, internationally-significant journals with high- impact factors

How TRANSIT intended to address it:
We expect to achieve at least 15 top publications in peer reviewed internationally significant journals. The project will actively aim for such publications and is confident that we can achieve this. Many members of the consortium have published in A journals, and many of these publications are highly cited.

How TRANSIT actually addressed it:
TRANSIT researchers have published 20 peer reviewed journal articles, 2 special issues, 2 edited books and 7 book chapters. In addition to that they also published 16 internally reviewed TRANSIT working papers to make results quickly available and 6 TRANSIT briefs that communicate the TRANSIT findings to a broader audience.

TRANSIT has established a strong scientific basis and reached out to a larger community. Three important elements for dissemination were 1) Digital outreach; 2) Activities and outputs and 3) Connections with the social innovation networks and initiatives that were studied in TRANSIT
Digital outreach
TRANSIT achieved an excellent overall digital outreach. By way of example, TRANSIT’s Facebook page attracted 295 new followers and 106 shares while the TRANSIT Twitter channel got 224 retweets, 241 link clicks and 245 new followers in the last year. The overall Twitter impressions number was almost 95,000 with nearly 900 followers and some 920 tweets. Our newsletter had 770 subscriptions and our website in 2017 3,500 viewers who stayed an average time of 5 minutes. The bounce rate was at 37%.
We have developed a website that in its ‘archive’ version is still acessible for the next five years. Next to acting as a resource for the web-based resource hub, it also features the critical turning points database and hosts the TRANSIT output including publications, videos and info graphics. TRANSIT has for example developed videos with lessons from policy makers (video titled ‘Policy makers share key lessons on social innovation’) and also 4 videos that form a series and report on key insights derived from TRANSIT. The titles are 1) Highlights from the project, 2) Hybrid relations, 3) Narratives of change and 4) Inclusivity.
Activities & Outputs
TRANSIT organized 15 workshops and 2 conferences with which it reached 875+ people. The TRANSIT final conference (14-15 September, Blue City, Rotterdam) was a vibrant and inisghtful closing event of the project that attracted aorund 200 people. The conference explored the empowering and transformative potentials of social innovation in the face of persistent problems and growing complexity. This included a critical approach, open to the paradoxes of social innovation and the diversity of interactions between actors engaging in it. The TRANSIT final Conference included a number of plenary events, but it was primarily co-created by its participants from various backgrounds and had 31 parallel activities. Moreover, TRANSIT researchers took active part in 112 workshops, they presented 43 contributions at scientific conferences and used TRANSIT material in more than 50 lecturs and seminar

Connections to social innovations studied:
The TRANSIT researchers studied 20 networks and over 110 social innovation initiatives. By publishing and sharing all relevant research output, such as case study reports and summaries as well as critical turning points data via the website other interested actors, including policy makers and researchers have access to the material. It also means providing visibility and exposure to the social innovations. They have been actively engaged in the project, e.g. through co-developing a Manifesto for Transformative Social Innovation, proposing workshops for the final conference or more practically by exhibiting information about their initiative at an exhibition area during the final conference.

The TRANSIT research has exploited the knowledge that it produced in various ways, mainly by developing:
• Lectures, seminars and key notes that all drew on the TRANSIT insights and materials
• Training Tools that can be used in education and training by social innovation initiatives themselves on five topics: game changers, governance, social learning, resourcing and monitoring & evaluation
• The Critical Turning Points data base is made accessible to everybody who wants to use it, as a resource for research, evidence-based policy, learning for social innovations, or simply, out of interest and curiosity
• A web based resource hub that includes resources produced by TRANSIT and third parties relevant to transformative social innovation.
• Practice briefs that have been developed based on TRANSIT insights to make academic work accessible as basis for policy making and the development of social innovation initiatives
• Video’s and an infographic that illustrate the ideas behind and outcomes of the TRANSIT research readily available for e.g. teaching
• A manifesto for transformative social innovation mobilizing around shared values and principles
• Two open-access special issues and 22 open access publications
• The results of the project are further exploited by the EU-funded CSA: Social Innovation Community and the European School of Social Innovation. They are also taken up in the further development of research proposals by consortium members.

List of Websites:

The TRANSIT website’s url is: The additional contact details are:
DRIFT - Dutch Research Institute For Transitions
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Postbus 1738, 3000 DR Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Tel: +31 (0)10-4088775 and E-mail DRIFT: