TRANSIT (Transformative Social Innovation Theory)
TRANSIT was a 4-year research project on Transformative Social Innovation.
The 4-year international research project on Transformative Social Innovation Theory (TRANSIT) involved 12 research institutes and 30+ researchers across Europe and Latin America, running from 2014 to 2017 and funded by the European Union under FP7. Transformative social innovation was defined as changing social relations involving new ways of doing, thinking and organizing, which challenge, alter and/or replace dominant institutions in the social context .
The project aimed to develop a middle-range theory on transformative social innovation, bridging between innovation research, social psychology, environmental studies, sociology and political science. This involved numerous case-studies and cross-national comparative analysis of 20 international network organizations working on social innovation and 100+ initiatives across 25+ countries. The scientific insights of TRANSIT were translated and summarised in several practice briefs and in the Manifesto for Transformative Social Innovation (#TSImanifesto). The guiding research question for the project was: how and under which conditions can social innovation lead to transformative change, and how are people empowered to contribute to transformative social innovation?
Main insights on/for sustainable just cities
While the TRANSIT project did not specialize solely on urban (un)sustainability and/or (in)justice, many of its case-studies do have an urban focus (e.g. FabLabs, Impact Hub and Shareable Sharing Cities) and most of the 20 networks under study have ambitions to contribute to transformative change towards more sustainable and just societies. Some of them concentrate on socio-economic injustice and in/exclusion (e.g. RIPESS, FEBEA (European Federation of Ethical and Alternative Banks), Basic Income, Timebanking and Participatory Budgeting), while others specifically target ecological (in)justice (e.g. Via Campesina, Seed Exchange, Ecovillages).
One of TRANSIT’s main purposes was to understand how social innovations can challenge, alter and replace dominant structures and institutions, including main drivers of injustice and unsustainability. The project had an explicitly critical and political approach towards the discourse of social innovation and discussed the paradoxes and tensions of transformative change. As summarised in the Manifesto on Transformative Social Innovation:
Social innovation initiatives often strive to be inclusive and accessible, and tend to be critical of the exclusive character of the dominant institutions that they aim to replace. However, there is an inherent paradox of inclusivity and exclusivity in social innovation, which often starts small from a limited group of like-minded people. Even the most committed social innovators at times struggle to overcome deep divides in highly structured modern societies. In order to be transformative, we need to overcome cultural and social-political barriers and connect beyond the original context where we started out. To that end, we need to link to other movements that confront divisions in class, gender, culture, sexual orientation, and (dis)ability, so not only to be aware of the dynamics of exclusivity, but also to deal with them. In order to make social innovation more inclusive and accessible and in order to have transformative impact, innovation must go through some sort of mainstreaming process. During such mainstreaming, social innovation - by definition - loses some of its innovative characteristics and runs the risk of being captured by existing structures and interests. This paradox is inherent to all innovation. We need to have a portfolio of different and often paradoxical strategies, including resisting, protesting, disproving, demanding, lobbying and disobeying, but also supplementing, compromising, complementing, circumventing, improving, collaborating, seducing and surprising. These strategies need to be flexible, continuously adapting, updating and repositioning, so as to translate values and practices to a more mainstream context, while at the same time allowing us to hold on to our original core intentions(#TSImanifesto, principle #13)
- Manifesto for Transformative Social Innovation: https://tsimanifesto.org/
- Longhurst, N., Avelino, F., Wittmayer, J., Weaver, P., Dumitru, A., Heilscher, S., Cipolla, C., Afonso, R., Kunze, I. and Elle, M. (2016), Experimenting with alternative economies: four emergent counter-narratives of urban economic development, Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 22, 69-74 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877343517300635
- Weaver, P., Backhaus, J., Pel, B. and Rach, S. (2017) Transformative change for inclusive society : insights from social innovations and implications for policy innovation and innovation policy (TRANSIT working paper # 9), TRANSIT: EU SSH.2013.3.2-1 Grant agreement no: 613169.
Link to other Wiki-pages
Several of the approaches mentioned in the UrbanA database on approaches to sustainable just cities have been studied in the TRANSIT project, including e.g. ecovillages (case-studies Global Ecovillage Network), co-working (case-studies Impact Hub), co-housing (case-studies International Co-operative Alliance - ICA), Transition towns (case-studies Transition Network), experimentation labs (case-studies on European Network of Living Labs - ENoLL), sharing (case-studies on Shareable – Sharing Cities), financial practices and instruments (case-studies on Timebanking), governance and participation processes and democratic innovation through recognition (case-studies on participatory budgeting and the International Observatory of Participatory Democracy -OIDP Network).
- TRANSIT website: http://www.transitsocialinnovation.eu/
- Overview of TRANSIT resources: http://www.transitsocialinnovation.eu/downloads
- All of TRANSIT’s cases: http://www.transitsocialinnovation.eu/discover-our-cases-2
- Summary of TRANSIT: http://www.transitsocialinnovation.eu/resource-hub/transit-brief-6-transformative-social-innovation-what-have-we-learned
- TRANSIT infographic: http://www.transitsocialinnovation.eu/infographic/infographic.pdf
Avelino, F., Dumitru, A., Cipolla, C., Kunze. I. & Wittmayer, J. (2019): Translocal empowerment in transformative social innovation networks, European Planning Studies, DOI: 10.1080/09654313.2019.157833. Available online: https://doi.org/10.1080/09654313.2019.1578339
Avelino, F., J.M. Wittmayer, B. Pel, P. Weaver, A. Dumitru, A. Haxeltine, R. Kemp, M.S. Jørgensen, T. Bauler, S. Ruijsink, T. O’Riordan (2019), Transformative Social Innovation and (Dis)Empowerment, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 145: 195-206: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.techfore.2017.05.002
Avelino, F., Wittmayer, J., Kemp, R., & Haxeltine, A. (2017). Guest Editorial: Game-changers and transformative social innovation. Ecology and Society, 22(4). https://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol22/iss4/art41/
Avelino F. & Wittmayer J.M. (2019) “The transformative potential of plural social enterprise: A multi-actor perspective”, chapter 10 in Eynaud P., Laville J.L., Dos Santos L.L.., Banerjee S., Hulgard H., Avelino F. (2019), Theory of social enterprise and pluralism: Social Movements, Solidarity Economy, and Global South, Oxfordshire: Routledge Publisher, pp. 193-222.
Backhaus, J., Genus, A., Lorek, S., Vadovics, E. & Wittmayer, J. M. (eds.) (2018). Social Innovation and Sustainable Consumption: Research and Action for Societal Transformation. Routledge.
Haxeltine, A., Pel, B., Wittmayer, J., Dumitru, A., Kemp, R., & Avelino, F. (2017). Building a middle-range theory of Transformative Social Innovation; theoretical pitfalls and methodological responses. European Public & Social Innovation Review, 2(1), 59-77. http://pub.sinnergiak.org/index.php/esir/article/view/51
Haxeltine, A. Flor Avelino, Julia Wittmayer, Iris Kunze, Noel Longhurst, Adina Dumitru, and Tim O’Riordan Conceptualising the role of social innovation in sustainability transformations, chapter 2 in: Backhaus, J., Genus, A., Lorek, S., Vadovics, E., & Wittmayer, J. M. (Eds.). (2017). Social Innovation and Sustainable Consumption: Research and Action for Societal Transformation. Routledge.
Longhurst, N., Avelino, F., Wittmayer, J., Weaver, P., Dumitru, A., Heilscher, S., Cipolla, C., Afonso, R., Kunze, I. and Elle, M. (2016), Experimenting with alternative economies: four emergent counter-narratives of urban economic development, Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 22, 69-74. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877343517300635
Wittmayer, J., Pel, B., Bauler, T., Avelino, F. (2017). Editorial Synthesis: Methodological Challenges in Social Innovation Research. European Public & Social Innovation Review, 2(1), 1-16. http://pub.sinnergiak.org/index.php/esir/article/view/65
Wittmayer, J.M., Backhaus, J., Avelino, F., Pel, B., Strasser, T. & Zuijderwijk, L. (2019), Narratives of change: how social innovation initiatives construct societal transformation, Futures, Available online: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.futures.2019.06.005
- Haxeltine, A., Pel, B., Wittmayer, J., Dumitru, A., Kemp, R., & Avelino, F. (2017). Building a middle-range theory of Transformative Social Innovation; theoretical pitfalls and methodological responses. European Public & Social Innovation Review, 2(1), 59-77. http://pub.sinnergiak.org/index.php/esir/article/view/51
- Avelino, F., J.M. Wittmayer, B. Pel, P. Weaver, A. Dumitru, A. Haxeltine, R. Kemp, M.S. Jørgensen, T. Bauler, S. Ruijsink, T. O’Riordan (2019), Transformative Social Innovation and (Dis)Empowerment, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 145: 195-206: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.techfore.2017.05.002