Defining and understanding social innovation for marginalised rural areas

The SIMRA Work Package tackling Theoretical and operational approaches to social innovation (WP2) is pleased to share with you the outcomes of Deliverables 2.1 and 2.2.

Social innovation (SI) has rapidly expanded in the debates and agenda of the research and policy communities over the last decade, with considerable expectations of its potential for addressing urgent societal challenges. A key question addressed is why communities in some marginalised rural areas (MRAs) respond to societal problems whereas others collapse?

Stakeholders consultation of WP2 during SITT workshop in Bratislava
Stakeholders consultation of WP2 during SITT workshop in Bratislava

Thanks to the valuable inputs and fruitful discussions across the WP2 team, and in the SIMRA transdisciplinary laboratory, the definition of social innovation in marginalized rural areas was developed and presented in Polman et al., 2017 (Deliverable 2.1) entitled “Classification of Social Innovations for Marginalized Rural Areas”. This deliverable undertook a critical analysis of theoretical approaches to social innovation, with the first involvement of members of the Social Innovation Think Tank (SITT) through an online survey, and a workshop in Bratislava, Slovakia, in October 2016. SIMRA partners contributed through e-communication (emails, video calls) and a roundtable discussion at the full project partner meeting in Barcelona, Spain in May 2017.

The outcome was a definition of social innovation for use in SIMRA of: “The reconfiguring of social practices, in response to societal challenges, which seeks to enhance outcomes on societal well-being and necessarily includes the engagement of civil society actors.” 

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A transdisciplinary framework for use in understanding the emergence and divergence of social innovation in marginalised rural areas has recently been developed (Deliverable 2.2). The principal concern was to determine the conceptual and emergence factors of social innovation, the types of social innovations which are likely to occur in marginalised rural areas, and what can be done to enhance the innovation potential across different types of such areas. Four hypotheses for the most prevalent trajectories of diverging paths of social innovation have been formulated. A transdisciplinary approach has been used to enhance expert and empirical knowledge exchange to shape development trajectories, and to inform those involved in policy design and implementation.

Empirical knowledge from 166 examples of social innovation, available in the SIMRA database (Bryce et al., 2017; D3.2), has formed the basis for the development of the framework and diverging path hypotheses. Members of the SIMRA Social Innovation Think Tank were closely involved in the process through: i) the development of an initial set of SI variables through an online survey and stakeholder workshop in Bratislava, Slovakia; ii) consulting a checklist for defining SI and ranking a final list of variables used to formulate hypotheses of diverging paths. This resulted in co-production of (theoretical – empirical – expert) understanding of social innovation in marginalised rural areas addressing societally relevant problems.

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Kluvánková, T., Gežik, V., Špaček, M., Brnkaláková, S., Valero, D., Bryce, R., Slee, W., Alkhaled, D., Secco, L., Burlando, C., Kozova, M., Miller, D., Nijnik, M., Perlik, M., Pisani, E., Polman, N., Price, M., Sarkii, S. and Weiss, G. 2017. Transdisciplinary understanding of SI in MRAs, Deliverable 2.2, Social Innovation in Marginalised Rural Areas (SIMRA). pp. 58.

Polman, N., Slee, W., Kluvánková, T., Dijkshoorn, M., Nijnik, M., Gezik, V. and Soma, K. 2017. Classification of Social Innovations for Marginalized Rural Areas, Deliverable 2.1, Social Innovation in Marginalised Rural Areas (SIMRA). pp. 32.


Tatiana Kluvankova (CE SPECTRA, IFE SAS)
Stanislava Brnkalakova (CE SPECTRA, IFE SAS)
Stanislava Brnkalakova (CE SPECTRA, IFE SAS)

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