Economic factors of social innovation - as so far largely unexplored research field - pose a huge challenge both, from the point of science and for the development of better policies. Against this background a multidisciplinary literature review is crucially important to advance our understanding in this field.
As first step towards a better understanding of the economic foundation of SI, the literature review has been undertaken to advance understanding within this field and therewith, lay the foundation for a theoretical sound and comprehensive concept identifying factors underlying the economic impact of SI as opposed to its social impact.
Following a systemic approach, institution-centric and actor-centric views are combined while accounting for the unique properties of social innovation and the multidisciplinarity of the research topic (economics, social sciences, political sciences). The institution-centric view focuses on how markets, the public and tertiary sector, as well as institutions (including incentives, norms and laws) function (or not) in looking after the marginalised and poor. The actor-centric view of social innovation centres on the roles of various stakeholders, actors and networks, their contribution to social innovation throughout the lifecycle as well as their embeddedness in specific cultural, economic and social contexts. Using this distinction helps to structure relevant theories at hand.
Theories such as for example microeconomics, behavioural economics, and information economics as well as organisation, institutional and poverty theory give important indications for the identification of economically relevant factors and concepts underlying SI. Whereas, sectors (private, public and tertiary sector plus civil society) involved in SI, processes (interactions, co-creation etc.), market and non-market contexts, organisational and business models, measurement of economics as well as framework conditions provide the structural frame for the literature review.
On this basis a classification of social innovation according to their economic principals, objectives and components is developed. From this common base, the factors for the economic underpinnings of social innovation are formulated as guidance for the upcoming work.
Principles comprise modes of efficiency and governance. The former refers to resource allocation as subject to the set objectives. In contrast, (new) modes of governance are likewise related to policy-making and self-regulation of private actors, the co-regulation of private and public actors or the delegation of tasks to regulatory agencies.
SI actors' primary strategic objective is to generate either solely social impact or social and economic impact, while a trade-off between social and economic objectives may exist. Furthermore, it is to be expected that SI actors' objectives vary depending on the type of organisation. Accounting for the dynamics of SI, it is furthermore assumed that objectives may change during the innovation process.
Components comprise actors, resource allocation and institutions. SIs are developed and implemented by (collective) actors, herein referred to as «organisations». These are embedded in an institutional setting that defines the game of the rule (resources, modes of interaction, access etc.).