The research project focuses on the impact of social innovation in regional development. The field of social innovation has received scholarly and policy interest during the last two decades. However, so far there is no universal definition of the phenomenon, which leads to social innovation studies not providing a clear perspective on how to measure the impact of social innovation. As a result, studies that are dedicated to the impact of social innovation in general and its impact in regional development specifically are still represented on a small scale. Answering the research question on the ways in which social innovation influences regional development, I will try to give an overview of the theoretical framework upon which the concept of social innovation is based, and explore the role social innovation plays in regional development. Moreover, having an understanding of social impact is a crucial point for the project, since depending on how the impact is understood (as the value created as a consequence of someone´s activity; as the value experienced by beneficiaries and all others affected; or, as a type of influence that includes both positive and negative effects), changes the influence that social innovation might have on regional development. Following this, I will try to answer the question, how social innovation’s impact in terms of regional development can be measured. Based on an appropriate set of indicators that will be developed throughout the study, the impact of social innovation in five RurAction regions under study will be presented.
To address the research question, several methods will be applied in the following RurAction regions: Mühlviertel (Austria), Baixo Alentejo (Portugal), Uckermark (Germany), Mid-West (Ireland) and Phthiotis (Greece). For Baixo Alentejo and Mühlviertel regions qualitative methodology will be applied first. Expert interviews in two above mentioned regions will be conducted during the exploratory stage of the research with actors of social enterprises, regional economic experts, regional politicians and experts of social welfare associations. Following the exploratory stage, the qualitative methodology will be accompanied by an online survey covering experts from five respective regions in order to access if and how social innovation influence regional development.
In the framework of the RurAction project, I am an early stage researcher based in the Centre for Socioeconomic and Territorial Studies (DINÂMIA´CET-IUL) and a PhD student at Instituto Universitario de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL), Portugal. If you would like to have further information about my project, please do not hesitate to contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org