From myriad definitions to a typology of social innovation

Abdullah Gök, Carolyn McMillan, Philippe Laredo

Research output: Working paperWorking Paper/Preprint


The breadth of academic, policy and practitioner attention and application has resulted in social innovation being regarded as elusive and ill-defined. Given the range of perspectives adopted across distinct – yet often related – domains, disciplines, contexts that are, themselves, methodologically and epistemologically impermanent, we ask whether scholarly efforts may be better directed towards balancing conceptual coherence and conceptual pluralism: recognising, understanding, and comparing typologies – rather than definitions – of social innovation. In our study, through a meta-analysis of dominant definitional components of social innovation, we develop a conceptually-based typology of social innovation. Empirically, we employ the European Social Innovation Database to demonstrate the distribution, prevalence and distinctiveness of the proposed types of social innovation in practice and propose that this evolution – from definition to (initial) typology – is a necessary step to develop the field and build theory, with important implications for theory, policy and practice.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationRochester, NY
Number of pages56
Publication statusSubmitted - 19 Aug 2023


  • social innovation
  • typology
  • types of social innovation


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