Peeling the Onion. An Exploration of the Layers of Social Innovation Ecosystems. Modelling a context sensitive perspective on driving and hindering factors for social innovation

Christoph Kaletka, Mona Markmann, Bastian Pelka


This article builds on the emerging discourse on “ecosystems of social innovation” and develops a model to identify and analyse driving and hindering factors for social innovation initiatives.

Social innovation – especially in the context of social entrepreneurship – is increasingly gaining momentum in the European welfare landscape. That growing importance challenges the scientific discourse as it asks for criteria of how to support, foster and sustain social innovation. This article utilizes two case studies illustrating different levels of drivers and barriers and develops a model for understanding contexts of social innovation. Four interrelated context levels are identified which constitute social innovation ecosystems: actors, structures, functions, and norms. The “onion”-model can be used by social innovators, financiers and policy makers alike in order to better and more strategically support social innovations themselves and to improve the framework conditions promoting or impeding them. The model allows for a better understanding of the diversity of supporting and hindering factors initiatives can face in any given urban or national social innovation ecosystem.

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