Digital Social Innovation: Fundamentals and Framework of Action

Digital Social Innovation: Fundamentals and Framework of Action

Alicia Guerra Guerra, Lyda Sánchez de Gómez, Carlos Jurado Rivas
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7074-5.ch010
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The fusion of the social economy with the digital economy, together with the essential need for social organizations to innovate in order to face challenges not satisfied by using traditional methods, led to what is known as digital social innovation: the use of digital technologies to allow or help to carry out social innovations. We are facing a developing field of study, in full evolution and with a high and recent level of global activity, which makes it a true global movement. This, together with the fact that DSI practices still lack unanimous and systematized criteria, calls for identifying what DSI is and what should be understood by it. Therefore, this chapter aims to configure and illustrate the conceptual framework of DSI, detail the barriers that are limiting its momentum, and formulate a general scheme of action for good practices in DSI.
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In a scenario of global economic and regulatory crisis, institutions and researchers in social sciences increasingly highlight the importance of the emerging social economy, a new axis of the economy that unites public and private sectors to create new relationships and social values (Bryer et al., 2012)1.

In its midst we are facing an incipient field of study that is the result of the movement that is taking place worldwide and that is evolving at an accelerated and unexpected pace as much due to the number of initiatives—from grassroots community projects to large national companies and global networks that are causing a paradigm shift—as the variety of their approaches: Social Innovation (SI), understood synthetically as that which generates new ideas for solving social problems. It is, in short, a sector that is in full expansion around the world (Buckland and Murillo, 2013) for the growing interest it arouses.

The reason for all this can be found in the emergence of new social problems—such as climate change, the scarcity of resources, demographic transformation, massive immigration or high youth unemployment—that coexist with other already chronic ones such as unemployment, social inequalities, an aging population, environmental deterioration and the explosion of certain chronic diseases (Simon et al., 2014), all of them in need of new approaches that make it possible to find solutions that the methods applied in the past have not been able to solve (Murray et al., 2010). On the one hand, and while western governments face these growing social challenges through a wide range of public social services, there is no guarantee that economic growth will allow these public services to continue (Dinant et al., 2017). This is progressively creating budgets that are unaffordable for governments, even more so in undeveloped countries. On the other hand, market solutions are insufficient for solving these growing social needs in today's world.

Faced with this panorama, the world is being forced to find new ways to avoid social exclusion and protect the environment. This is where SI emerges as a new approach that faces this serious deficit through the participation of supporting agents and beneficiaries in the search for new solutions.

This must be so given that there is a growing disconnection between traditional services and new needs. SI is found to be a key vehicle for developing new ways of tackling complex social challenges at local, national and international scales arising from the committed work of individuals and groups in civil society, research groups, academic institutions, companies, governments, NGOs, social movements and the multiple networks created between groups. It is precisely these last groups that have caused a great advance in SI by the appearance of new approaches and ways of managing social changes.

These reasons have instigated a global lift-off of SI in the last decade and, with it, the need for a new paradigm—as in previous technological and social transformations. The nature and global effervescence of this field give rise to a large number of SI definitions, as well as innumerable tools and mechanisms for promoting SI radiating from all types of organizations and governments. In short, we aim to identify a notion of SI which is as widely accepted as possible, as well as the most effective SI mechanisms to find the best types of approaches, and defining and determining the social impact of these innovations and their long-term viability. All this heterogeneity and lack of clarity is reflected in a set of questions that are part of the global debate around SI: What does SI mean? Where are its limits? How is its impact measured? And what are the key success factors of a specific SI initiative?

Key Terms in this Chapter

Barriers to DSI: Obstacles that inhibit DSI from being undertaken.

Innovation: In a company, it consists of the introduction of a product (goods or services) or a new or significantly improved process, or a new marketing or organizational method that is applied to the practice of the company, to the organization of work or to external relations. But it is only considered innovation if its introduction is sold or applied successfully.

Social Economy (SE): The set of microeconomic entities, companies of people, free and voluntary, private, that is created from civil society, and that, with democratic decision processes, develop an economic activity with the priority of satisfying the needs of people, before giving back to or repaying their investors.

Digital Social Innovation (DSI): Innovation that uses digital technologies to enable or help carry out SI.

Digital Economy: Refers to an economy based on ICT technologies as a means of communication and value creation.

Good Practices in DSI: Real DSI cases that, if they respect the framework of action that considers them good , become success stories in DSI.

Social Innovation (SI): That innovation that generates new ideas destined to solve social problems, that is to say, innovation in the social economy.

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