Social Learning in Social Innovation: learning about systemic relations and strategies for transformative change

Publicado: 11 septiembre, 2017 en Participación Pública, People-Environment Research Group, TRANSFORMACIÓN SOCIAL
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This 4th TRANSIT brief, authored by Adina Dumitru, Isabel Lema-Blanco and colleagues, offers insights into the following questions: what is social learning, what does it consist of in the case of SI initiatives, and why is social learning important – even foundational – for SI initiatives as well as wider society?

Because social innovation initiatives experiment with radically different ways of doing things and have ambitions to achieve change in society, social learning is of paramount importance. Through experimentation with new social relations, interaction and conscious reflection, members of SI initiatives learn about how to develop, thrive and engage in effective strategies for transforming existing practices and institutions.

They develop ways of relating to one another that are more fulfilling, and strategies for interacting with existing institutions, practices and relations of power. When such insights, strategies and the underlying values become shared, we speak of social learning.

Social innovations become transformative when they challenge, alter, replace or produce alternatives to well-established social relations, and ways of doing things. In their journeys, social innovations are subject to pressures for change themselves.

They thus need to learn how to maintain autonomy and integrity and resist capture, especially from government and other powerful actors.

Social learning in transformative social innovations will be illustrated with empirical examples from the following three (TRANSIT) cases: slow food, credit unions & financial cooperatives and ecovillages.

Download this TRANSIT brief in:

Dumitru, A., Lema-Blanco, I., Kunze, I., Kemp, R., Wittmayer, J., Haxeltine, A., García-Mira, R., Zuijderwijk, L. and Cozan, S. (2017) Social learning in social innovation initiatives : learning about systemic relations and strategies for transformative change (TRANSIT Brief ; 4), TRANSIT: EU SHH.2013.3.2-1 Grant agreement no: 613169.


TRANSIT (TRANsformative Social Innovation Theory) is an ambitious research project that will develop a theory of transformative social innovation which is about empowerment and change in society. It is co-funded by the European Commission and runs for four years, from January 2014 until December 2017. TRANSIT will utilize a research method which encourages feedback from social entrepreneurs and innovators, policy makers and academics to develop a theory with practical relevance. The research project studies how social innovation can bring about empowerment and societal transformation.

The theory of Transformative Social Innovation will be formulated in a dynamic and iterative process that builds on existing theory, grounds the emerging theory in in-depth case studies and tests it through a meta-analysis of survey data.An embedded case study approach is used to ground and test the emerging middle-range theory on transformative social innovation. This approach combines both qualitative, in-depth case study analysis, as well as quali-quantitative comparative meta-analysis. In total, TRANSIT researches a sample of approx. 20 transnational networks. Further outputs of this process include working papers, training tools, policy and practice briefs for social innovators, entrepreneurs, researchers, and policymakers.


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