Monthly Spotlight: Interview with Dmitri Domanski, Sozialforschungsstelle Dortmund

Why is Research in Social Innovation important for you?

Social innovations can be found in all societal areas, they have a lot of influence on our everyday life. Still, often we don’t know why they occur and how they occur. We may know it in a specific context, e.g. of education, health care or climate change. But we need a systemic approach in order to understand how we can better develop, promote and foster social innovations. I’m sure, this issue is crucial if we want to meet successfully the grand challenges our societies are facing.

What is the biggest challenge for Social Innovation Research?

Basically, I see two major challenges. First, the world is still lacking a comprehensive social innovation theory, so the time has definitely come to develop it. Secondly, we need to carry out systematic comparisons of social innovations from all over the world, especially if we want to know more about their typical success factors. This has very much to do with social innovation infrastructure, national social innovation systems as well as regional social innovation systems. At the same time, it’s also about empowerment and therefore education in social innovation.

What result can we expect from SI-DRIVE?

Considering both major challenges mentioned above, one key task of SI-DRIVE will be advancing on a comprehensive social innovation theory, so that we can expect a better understanding of the phenomenon of social innovation. Another key task will be a global mapping of social innovations. Hence, for the first time in history there will be empirical findings on social innovations from all world continents as results of a systematic analysis.

Which book or article about Social Innovation should everybody read?

I would like to recommend the article “When scaling out is not enough: Strategies for system change” by Frances Westley and Nino Antadze (2013). It’s very interesting because of the idea that social entrepreneurs need to change the system that created the problem if they want to reach their goal. This scaling-up approach goes beyond the common idea of dissemination. It shows the importance of thinking social innovation differently.