Introduction

The topic of social innovation has, in recent years, received increased attention from academia, public institutions and private foundations. Social innovation is important for this edited collection as it encapsulates various approaches, including social entrepreneurship, within one larger concept that focuses on addressing current challenges faced by societies. Recognizing the importance of social innovation, the European Union has incorporated the concept of social innovation into its drive towards an Innovative Union, one of its seven flagship initiatives to reach

J. Mosedale (*) • F. Voll

Institute for Tourism and Leisure, University of Applied Sciences HTW Chur, Chur, Switzerland

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P.J. Sheldon, R. Daniele (eds.), Social Entrepreneurship and Tourism, Tourism on the Verge, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-46518-0_6

the Europe 2020 target to achieve smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. The EU has further supported a number of research projects under its Seventh Framework Programme that focus on different aspects of social innovation: TEPSIE (The theoretical, empirical and policy foundations for building social innovation in Europe), CRESSI (Creating Economic Space for Social Innovation), SIMPACT (Boosting the Impact of Social Innovation in Europe through Economic Underpinnings), ITSSOIN (Impact of the Third Sector as Social Innovation), SI-DRIVE (Social Innovation: Driving Force of Social Change), just to name a few. In the US, social innovation is also receiving considerable attention and the Social Innovation Fund, a key White House initiative and program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, has been set up to support innovative projects that transform society. Prominent private institutions include The Young Foundation, which drives the social innovation agenda in terms of research and implementation of innovative ideas. The policy focus on social innovation and increased funding for research (in particular in the European Union) has resulted in an increase in academic research centers and institutes.

The different points of view from which social innovation is analyzed have resulted in different understandings of social innovation (See Sheldon, Pollock and Daniele, chapter “Social Entrepreneurship and Tourism: Setting the Stage” of this volume for some definitions of the wider social entrepreneurship concept). The concepts of social innovation and social entrepreneurship are closely related, as innovation is an important aspect of social entrepreneurship. Yet the focus of social innovation lies on the product and the process of collaborative innovation in order to develop creative and imaginative communities: “Social innovation does not always come from lone, heroic innovators” (Leadbeater, 2006: 244). Although, the creation of social value is of significant importance to both social entrepreneurship and social innovation, the latter concept recognizes that in addition to individual entrepreneurs groups of people (such as communities or organizations) can also be drivers of innovation. Social innovation thus draws on social capital of networks in order to encourage the imagination of new opportunities and alternatives. By focusing on networks, it may break down barriers between the public (organizations), private (individuals and firms), and non-profit (social entrepreneurs, organizations and communities) sectors. To allow for extensive community input, social innovation often follows an open innovation process, a collaborative style of innovation which requires a shared vision as well as values and norms. Within open innovation processes, knowledge, ideas, thoughts, designs, future scenarios, etc. can be gathered from a wide variety of participants (the internet has significantly increased the opportunities for engaging distant participants via crowdsourcing).

In their analysis of the meanings attached to social innovation, Ruede and Lurtz (2012) have identified seven (sometimes overlapping) categories incorporating different points of view and definitions: (1) To do something good in/for society, (2) To change social practices and/or structure, (3) To contribute to urban and community development, (4) To reorganize work processes, (5) To imbue technological innovations with cultural meaning and relevance, (6) To make changes in the area of social work, (7) To innovate by means of digital connectivity.

Yet, at a more general level, social innovation can be viewed as a process of collaborative innovation, where the innovation process benefits from networks, co-operation and co-production (S0rensen, 2007) facilitated by new developments in IT or as a social outcome, which changes social interactions and practices, such as via new hospitality/economic practices such as couch-surfing and the use of Airbnb (Molz & Gibson, 2012).

The outcomes of social innovations are first, changing social interactions and practices, and second, contributing to the social development of communities. To date, social innovation has received limited attention in the academic tourism literature. This chapter therefore has three aims: first, to provide a conceptual overview of social innovation, particularly in context of social entrepreneurship; second, to link the theoretical concept to existing literature and themes in tourism research; and third, to provide an impetus for not only thinking about, but also enacting and performing social innovation in a tourism context.

 
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