Sub-theme 38: Collective Processes of Social Innovation

M. Tina Dacin
Queen's School of Business, Queen's University, Canada
Jean-Baptiste Litrico
Queen's School of Business, Queen's University, Canada
Paul Tracey
Judge Business School, University of Cambridge, UK

Call for Papers


Recent years have seen the appearance of organizations pursuing social benefits while using organizational forms and practices traditionally characteristic of for-profit businesses. These enterprises are examples of social innovation, defined as novel forms of collective organization pursuing social impact through systemic change. Many scholars interested in better understanding this phenomenon have worked under the heading of social entrepreneurship, an emerging field of scholarly inquiry that has largely developed at the intersection of organization theory and entrepreneurship research. This research paradigm has often focused on individual action, examining who the social entrepreneurs are, what distinguishes them from traditional business entrepreneurs, and how they manage their socially innovative projects to resolve a variety of social needs. While this work has sparked interest, there is room for a broader dialogue regarding the promise and potential of research on social innovation for organizations scholars.

Indeed, although this emphasis on individual action has greatly enhanced our understanding of some aspects of social innovation, it hardly covers the spectrum of forms through which social innovation occurs. In this sub-theme we wish to take a broader perspective on social innovation and consider the various collective processes that drive social innovation, including social movements, networks, collaboration, and markets. Our premise is that this emerging field of research will benefit from greater attention being paid to the various forms taken by social innovations. We also believe that our focus offers an opportunity to better understand a number of intriguing hybrid forms of collective action and presents great potential to further refine and perhaps revise extant theories of organization more generally.

Much can be gained by examining social innovation through the lens of design, the unifying theme of the EGOS Colloquium in Helsinki. The concept of design directs attention toward social innovation as an iterative and experimental process as opposed to a process with a linear trajectory. It also draws attention to the broad spectrum of institutional activities supporting social innovations beyond the traditional notion of entrepreneurial action, and the extent to which the institutional environment enables and/or constrains the processes underpinning social innovation. Moreover, a design perspective highlights issues of power and control, which appear to have been glossed over in much of the emerging scholarship on the topic. Thus the concept of design represents an interesting heuristic to explore the concept of social innovation, and to shed new light on this important area of research.

We welcome papers asking either empirically or theoretically driven questions, including (but not limited to):

  • How do socially innovative organizations working at the intersection of for-profit and non-profit sectors manage various institutional demands/logics?
  • What organizational forms do social innovations take?
  • In what ways are new technologies influencing the organizational forms taken by social innovations?
  • Are existing theories of innovation adequate to describe social innovation? Do we need a theory of social innovation?
  • What are the core processes of social innovation (e.g., emergence, scaling, engagement, partnership, legitimacy)?
  • What levels of analysis provide the greatest opportunity to explore the emergence of hybrid forms?
  • What factors lead to the sustainability and scaling of social innovations?
  • How do discourses in the media or scholarly communities impact the rise of social innovation?
  • What is the role of geography and community in fostering clusters of social innovators?
  • How do networks of power shape the agendas of those engaged in social innovation, and how do these networks emerge or dissipate?


M. Tina Dacin M. Tina Dacin is the E. Marie Shantz Professor of Strategy & Organizational Behavior and the Director of the Centre for Responsible Leadership at the Queen’s School of Business, Queen’s University, Canada. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto. Her current research focuses upon organizational rituals and traditions, institutional theory as well as social innovation and social entrepreneurship.
Jean-Baptiste Litrico Jean-Baptiste Litrico is Assistant Professor of Strategy and Organizations at the Queen’s School of Business, Queen’s University, Canada. He received his Ph.D. in management from McGill University. His current research focuses on the diffusion of socially innovative management practices across organizations.
Paul Tracey Paul Tracey is Reader (Associate Professor) in Human Resources and Organizations at Judge Business School, University of Cambridge. He received his Ph.D. in Management and Organization from the University of Stirling. His research interests include entrepreneurship, institutions and institutional change, regional innovation, and social innovation.