Sub-theme 57: Making Utopias Real: Social Innovation, Movements and Change

Damon Golsorkhi
Grenoble Ecole de Management, France
Issy Drori
VU University Amsterdam
Masaru Karube
Hitotsubashi University, Tokyo, Japan

Call for Papers

Despite all the economic and technological developments observed in the past 70 years, poverty in the South and rampant economic insecurity in the North have never been so visible. Public debts, the persistence of social problems (education, poverty, aging, gender issues, access to care and labor among others), unsustainable socio-economic practices undermining future generations, and inequality are making the future explosive. By paraphrasing Karl Marx, in the long run capitalism destroys its own conditions of possibility. Having a more responsible capitalism and saving it from its current conditions or proposing an alternative political ideology could be based on social innovations. In other words, social innovation could be at the heart of any changes if we want to transform the unacceptable situation surrounding us and to avoid a dark future.

In this context, organizations, public or private, have a role to play: they can radically innovate by offering social tools, practices and frameworks that constitute an alternative to the dominant ones. These practices and tools, based on social innovations, seek to meet social needs and generate benefits to the whole society by reducing the current and future costs of social problems. Indeed, the outcome of a social innovation is generally a social practice (built around a service, a product or a particular organization or form of organizing) that enables solutions to social problems and has also an impact at the local and/or structural level by inducing changes.

Between emancipatory aspirations and business ethics, between private and public, organizations and community, institutions and social movements, social innovation could have multiple origins, but one targeted issue: solving social problems. Thus, this track aims at gathering works which focus on social innovation using organizational, community, social movement and institutional lenses. From private corporations around the world promoting 'social innovations' to the people fighting for a better future of their community/country (and beyond), we need more research to understand what role these innovations play in positive social change. In other words, we want to explore how and when social innovations impact positively the environment, either with an emancipatory, business or hybrid aspirations. We need to highlight the emergence, processes, practices and mechanisms of social innovations, as well as the reasons for their successes and failures.

Research questions include for instance:

  • How and why some innovations have remained local whereas others, such as micro-credit, have spread out and scaled up at high speed?
  • What kind of social innovation can be provided by private corporations? How they induce positive social change and do business at the same time?
  • What is a ‘hybrid’ (social and business at the same time) approach of social innovation?
  • How relationships among various stakeholders are building?
  • How do powerful actors react to the emergence of practices that could represent a major threat to their positions?
  • What are the social, political, ecological and economic conditions of successful social innovations?
  • How can the social innovations be envisaged as a mean of resistance? What forms of emancipation are implied by social innovations? How can certain forms of social innovation represent instruments for the autonomy and empowerment of the dominated?
  • How social movements can trigger social innovations? How do they diffuse it? What are the different kinds of changes emanated from social movements?
  • When, how and why social innovations do (not) work and provide solutions to social problems?

These questions are not limited, and it constitutes a basis upon which contributions in areas such as aging, work, education, organizing, healthcare, gender, sexual orientation, wealth sharing, sustainable practices, finance, governance, economic power, and social power can be developed. We must stress that we are looking for appropriate and rigorous methodologies, aimed at the more micro and purely organizational level such as ethnography, participatory action research or case studies, but also for larger-scale studies based on surveys, panels or field experience. We also seek to compensate for the lack of theorization on social innovation in organizational studies and therefore look for empirical papers with a solid and innovative theoretical background.


Damon Golsorkhi is Assistant Professor of Strategy at Grenoble Ecole de Management, France. He is working on power and resistance, Strategy-as-Practice and social change and innovation. He has published in 'Organization', 'M@n@gement' and 'Revue Française de Gestion', among others.
Issy Drori is Professor of Organizations and Globalization at the Department of Organizational Sciences, VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands. He has published books and in journals, such as 'Academy of Management Journal', 'Organization Science', 'Organization Studies', 'Human Relations' and 'American Sociological Review', among others.
Masaru Karube is Associate Professor of Strategy and Innovation at the Institute of Innovation Research, Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo, Japan. His research focuses on the dynamics of technological and institutional innovation in the contexts of emergence of start-ups and emergence of new industry. He has published articles in journals such as the 'Long Range Planning' and 'Academy of Management Perspectives'.