Social innovation is about solving societal problems, finding solutions that start with the people who are experiencing the problem. Science is increasingly involved in social innovation, and this requires researchers who are committed to searching for solutions jointly with citizens.
How can farmers in Rwanda coordinate their activities better with the sugar factory they supply, so that they can earn more? How can members of the public contribute to the development of synthetic biology, a relatively young discipline, so that its applications are accepted by society. Education and research have an important role to play, and as the dialogue between science and society intensifies, scientists are increasingly involved in societal initiatives.
In contrast to the traditional image of scientists who are distanced from their object of study, social innovation researchers are involved in the processes of change. Their work involves creating economic, social or ecological value. Social innovation requires capacities like out-of-the-box thinking. Sometimes entrenched ways of thinking have to be questioned. Sometimes parties with different views and interests have to be brought together. A common factor is that social innovation always requires an open attitude about which questions and which information are relevant for the problem that needs solving.
A lot of social innovation research and education is already taking place within Wageningen University and Research. A group of researchers have developed an approach to social innovation that is designed to encourage more social innovation, based on the experiences of the Social Innovation for Value Creation programme. The approach is described and examples of social innovation research are presented on this website.