Scaling Social Innovation towards Systemic Change - A qualitative analysis of scaling strategies and the application of systems leadership in the German food industry
Abstract: It has been well established by scholarly literature and practitioners alike that systemic change is inevitable to tackle today’s complex and interconnected social-environmental challenges. However, two separated strands of literature - one on scaling of social innovation, the other on systems leadership - stipulate different prerequisites to achieve systemic change towards sustainability. Departing from a complex systems perspective, this thesis establishes an analytical framework combining theories on scaling social innovation, the application of systems leadership and their impact towards systemic change. Subsequently, this framework is contextualised to the specific case of social innovation in the German food industry to answer three interrelated research questions. First, what strategies are used to scale social innovation in the German food industry? Second, to what extent is systems leadership applied as part of these scaling strategies? Third, what is the impact of the scaling strategies towards systemic change? To answer all three research questions interviews were conducted with eight social innovators active in the German food industry. A directed approach to qualitative content analysis is pursued to analyse the data, based on the analytical framework that was established. The findings suggest that predominantly scaling out and deep strategies are pursued, scaling up only to a small extent. Moreover, systems leadership is prevalent primarily in terms of a mindset, the application of collective action as a catalyst towards systemic change is still in its infancy. Finally, it is found that impact is mostly measured in terms of output and thus, organisational scale, whereas impact in terms of systemic change, indicating systemic scale of social innovation, is mainly assessed by feelings and assumptions. Future research should verify the established framework by applying it to different sectors and investigating a bigger sample of social innovations. In addition, more research needs to be done to be able to specifically calculate impact in terms of systemic change.
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