The Emergence of the Social Innovation Community: Towards Collaborative Changemaking?

17 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2013

Date Written: December 18, 2013


Notwithstanding important advances in explaining the behaviour of social entrepreneurs, the logic of their business models and patterns of social innovation, the field of social entrepreneurship and innovation has not yet adequately dealt with collaborative phenomena. This sociological paper therefore sets out, based on ethnographic observation and illustrative examples, a framework through which the collaborative dimension can be systematically investigated. It explains that collaborative activity in the social entrepreneurship field increasingly concentrates in so-called Social Innovation Communities.

Such entities are driven by distinctive cultures of changemaking as well as by a combination of face-to-face and digital interactions/spaces. From Helsinki and Vienna to Toronto and London, Social Innovation Communities — including those formed around Impact HUBs — are now emerging across the world. They are reducible neither to “networks,”“communities of practice” or “ecosystems,” but should rather be viewed as collaborative communities that have the potential to rewire wider social innovation circuits in a given area.

By convening diverse participants, accelerating processes of learning and enhancing creative capabilities, Social Innovation Communities can catalyze the transition towards inventive, sustainable economies. They may evolve into the nerve centres of the kinds of “open-solution societies” envisioned by Dees (2013) where practical and theoretical lessons (in relation to social innovation) are brought into constant dialogue. A range of approaches, from Social Network Analysis and Social Capital Theory to ethnographic methods, can be fruitfully applied to the further study of these entities and the innovation processes they facilitate.

Keywords: Hubs, Social Innovation Community, social entrepreneurship, collaboration, networks, social capital

Suggested Citation

Toivonen, Tuukka, The Emergence of the Social Innovation Community: Towards Collaborative Changemaking? (December 18, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Tuukka Toivonen (Contact Author)

UCL STEaPP ( email )

Gower Street
London, WC1E 6BT
United Kingdom


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