Monthly Spotlight: Interview with Anna Butzin, IAT

Why is Research in Social Innovation important for you?

Social innovation research is important, because it implies having a broad view upon innovative actions. It is an alternative to the somewhat narrow technology and engineering driven understanding of innovation and related innovation research. Novelty can also come from society, grassroots engagement and social movements, and this is an important component research in social innovation strives to underpin!

What is the biggest challenge for Social Innovation Research?

Social innovations are very context-sensitive in the sense that social innovations are embedded in local or regional environments with specific socio-cultural institutions that influence actions and mechanisms of change. The challenge is to analyze the relationship of social innovation and its geographical environment, as it surely is a crucial aspect to understand why some social innovations diffuse while others remain a local phenomenon.

Furthermore, we may not forget that the process of developing social innovation is supposedly driven by a diversity of actor types (from civil society, non-profits, companies, the public sector etc.) that interact, communicate, engage, and thereby create novelty. To analyze these social dynamics and the related generation of new knowledge will shed light on the mechanisms of social innovation emergence.

What result can we expect from SI-DRIVE?

SI-Drive will advance knowledge about social innovation with the aim to progress theory development. We can therefore expect insights concerning the components, mechanisms and driving forces of both: the process of social innovation development and the process of diffusion. In addition, these insights will reflect different cultural backgrounds, because of the global scope of the SI-Drive project.

Which book or article about Social Innovation should everybody read? Why? (Please don’t cite own publications or publications from your institution).

I much appreciate Arnoud Lagendijk’s considerations of his inaugural speech when he became professor of economic geography at Radboud University Nijmegen. The speech was entitled »From ‘spaces of hope’ to ‘networks of hope’: How globalization gives rise to grassroots economies and new foundations of local wealth creation«. It can be found by following this link: