Sub-theme 45: Innovation for the Good Life: Imperative or Bias?

Convenors:
Adriano Solidoro
University of Milan, Italy
Barbara Quacquarelli
University of Milan, Italy
Gianluigi Viscusi
Imperial College London, United Kingdom

Call for Papers


Many large organizations have undertaken numerous corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects to face environmental problems, community development, social innovation and training the unemployed people for job skills, and the like (Campbell, 2007). This while managers of the public and cultural sectors and of non-profit organizations pursue innovation to challenge the numerous complex social challenges, from conflicts due to ethnic, cultural, and political differences, to knowledge divide and social exclusion. And political leaders underline the role of innovation for more environmental sustainability, and fight increasing crime rates, and global jobs shortage (Lee, 2015).
 
Innovation is indeed increasingly becoming an imperative for policymakers around the globe (Pfotenhauer & Jasanoff, 2017a), several countries have even adopted innovation as their national policy agenda, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development notes in its “Innovation Strategy” that “while no single policy instrument holds all the answers, innovation is the key ingredient of any effort to im-prove people’s quality of life. It is [...] essential for addressing some of society’s most pressing issues, such as climate change, health and poverty” (OECD, 2010), and the European Commission instructively labeled the continent an “Innovation Union”, setting the tone for European self-imagination in the new millennium (European Commission, 2011), thus framing policy problems as problems of innovation.
 
Moreover, geeks and tech entrepreneurs are now part of the public and economic mainstream, and because of their engagement in societal and environmental challenges are more and more serving as role models for today’s teenage generation.

So, while innovation seems to transform societies – not only through new technological possibilities or economic growth, but also by shaping public discourse, and legitimizing major institutional interventions – it appears as the ultimate goal of innovation has become be the good life and the creation of a better future, where people can more freely and easily access to opportunities to learn and develop, be happy with the workplace and community, be engaged in good relationships, and also have a comfortable and healthy life style (Gallup-Healthways, 2015). Complex social challenges that, a decade ago, might have been framed differently – from low literacy rates to sluggish economic growth, growing inequality, obesity, traffic congestion, environmental degradation, all the way to climate change – now all demand innovation-centered solutions: the call for more innovation has become a panacea policy response that promises to solve problems and achieve the good life almost independently of their specifics (Pfotenhauer & Jasanoff, 2017a).
 
Creating such a future of good life requires much more than just smart digital technologies, and government support, it requires shared visions and goals (Kramer & Pfitzer, 2016; Porter & Kramer, 2011) and convergence practices, as well as problem setting and decision making methodologies that are available to remove many challenging barriers. Design thinking, crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, hackathons, 3D technology, and MOOC and gamification in the learning domain are only few examples of this innovation approaches applied to deal with complex problems and help the process of creating a better future, where the main purpose is often to develop the “common good” through co-creation of shared visions.
 
But, overall, is there an underlying logic to these approaches maybe suggesting that we are unable to address grand societal challenges and ensure good life to citizens because our societies, institutions, or individual predispositions are not suffciently geared towards innovation? And is this innovation imperative delegating decisions about social change to innovation experts, raising questions of accountability and democratic governance? And is this pro-innovation bias marginalizing other rationales, values, and social knowledge that do not explicitly support innovation? Is therefore emerging a “deficit model” of innovation in which a lack of innovation is routinely invoked as the main obstacle to social progress? Can parallels be drawn to research on the deficit model of public understanding of science, while the need for dialogue and inclusion has made some headway into mainstream policy discourses in science and technology policy (Irwin, 2006), a similar appreciation is currently lacking in innovation policy? Without a dedicated effort to transform innovation policy into a more democratic, inclusive, and explicitly political field, are there risks of significant social and political conflict? How an explicit shift from “innovation policy” to “innovation politics”, and support new forms for democratic deliberation may harness the transformative power of innovation and direct it toward the public good?
 
In this sub-theme, we call for research papers that investigate the need for reflexive and critical engagement with innovation, and for a more reflexive stance toward innovation systems approaches (Kuhlmann et al., 2012), as witnessed by the emergence of the responsible innovation paradigm (Stilgoe et al., 2013; von Schomberg, 2013).
 


References


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Adriano Solidoro is Assistant Professor in Organisation Studies at the Department of Business and Law, University of Milan, Italy; member of CRIET (Inter-university Research Center in Economy of the Territory); Director of ISOB (Observatory on Innovation for Public Libraries); and Coordinator of the Summer School on Global Diversity Management at Glasgow Caledonian University, UK. Adriano is also Editor-in-Chief of ‘Industrial and Commercial Training’ (Emerald Publishing).
Barbara Quacquarelli is Associate Professor in Organisation Studies at the at the Department of Business and Law, University of Milan, and Professor of Public Management at Scuola Nazionale dell’Amministrazione in Rome, Italy. She is also a faculty member of MIP, Business School of Politecnico University, Milan.
Gianluigi Viscusi is Senior Research Fellow at Imperial College Business School London, UK. His research interests include information systems strategy and planning, business modeling, e-Government, information quality and value, social study of information systems, and crowd-driven innovation. Gianluigi is Editor-in-Chief of the ‘International Journal of Enterprise Information Systems’.