Bonifacio, Matteo (2012) Social Innovation: a Novel Policy Stream or a Policy Compromise? An EU Perspective. Trento : Università di Trento.
Spurred by the recent global economic crisis, Social Innovation (SI) has gained increasing attention in the European Commission (EC) agenda. However it remains a heterogeneous and ill-defined concept, whose boundaries are unclear. Presently within EC discussions, it encapsulates a variety of concepts from social enterprises to societal change. Adopting an ethnographic methodology, this analysis provides insight into the contrasting official “front-stage” and the “back-stage” views, constraints and practices by which SI has been adopted and promoted by the EC. While the “front-stage” perspective is more intentionally based on the official situations, documents, and statements, the “back-stage” is informed by both the ethnographic analysis and its relationship with the “front-stage” perspective. The main finding of the analysis is that SI might be presumably seen as the only way to align the Commission’s conservative-liberal policy, which is rooted in the Lisbon Agenda, with the pressing social demands which stem from the 2008 financial crisis. However, this analysis also indicates that, rather than a novel policy stream, SI can also be seen as a policy compromise that can be used to detract from debates around the need to develop a full-fledged EU Social Policy; more deeply, detract the policy debate from facing a thorough reflection on our society and development model. The analysis will also provide an overview of the risks associated with current thinking viewed from the perspective of EU players operating in the socio-political domain.
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