Research and Scholarship FAQ

Q: What is our definition of social innovation?

A: Social innovation is a transdisciplinary field of action research and knowledge production. At Taylor, a group of scholars are seeking to understand persistent problems in our globally connected society through innovations that are more effective, sustainable, and just. This captures a classic definition by Phills et al 2008, as well as our theoretically-informed thinking about the nature of problems on a global scale and how we might address them.

Q: What kind of research and scholarship are we looking to support?

A: A wide range of topics from different disciplines that shows serious scholarly engagement with the field of changemaking as we understand and promote it at Taylor and in the Ashoka U network. For example:

  • We are keen to support authentic and rigorous scholarship that produces valid knowledge informed by contemporary social theories about changemaking.
  • We encourage process-oriented research that comes from a realist and action-oriented perspective that allows for agency of all participants.
  • We hope to reveal the specific processes through which social innovations come to exist, adapt, and scale. How are they envisioned, imagined? How do the re-mix, evolve and get reinvented? How are the ideas diffused and spread?
  • We hope to reveal some of the unintended side-effects or instrument effects of social innovation as sets of institutions and practices that reflect often inequitable and harmful structures of power in society.
  • We are eager to hear about rigorous multi-method research that documents and explains the real (positive and negative) and valued social impacts of social entrepreneurs/intrapreneurs, capturing multiple perspectives, different voices, including the intended beneficiaries of change-making efforts.
  • We are inspired by humanities scholars who can bring new interpretations to old texts with a changemaker lens, finding new and surprising stories, perspectives, interpretations, and narratives from the point of view of social movements, hidden histories, and marginalized voices.
  • We invite informed critique of our definitions, theories of change, and programs for cultivating changemakers.

Q: What about non-research writing?

We support writing within changemaking in academia. Our retreats, SI Conversations, and blog posts can support non-academic writing about the pursuit of research, non-academic pursuits, or encore careers. This might take the form of reflexive and personal essays, opinion pieces, blog posts.

Q: Who are we looking to work with and support?

A: We support scholars in any position within and outside and straddling the academy—universities and institutions of higher education—who are, hoping to enrich social innovation research and knowledge production and to make it more accessible to people often left out of this process. Specifically:

  • We are open to supporting faculty of any level, rank and appointment at Tulane or other local campuses.
  • We are open to scholars from any academic discipline or field with a sincere interest to explore social innovation in some way.
  • Doctoral students will find this community helpful in offering a range of research topics, exposure to mixed methods and multi-disciplinary approaches, and practical financial resources and opportunities.
  • Practitioners and public policy-makers might seek to find collaborators to conduct relevant applied research, program reviews, evaluations, etc.

Q: What kinds of topics and/or themes within social innovation are we seeking to promote?

A: We are interested in scholarly and research topics that enrich our understanding of how to undertake and promote changemaking and social innovation efforts, spanning theoretical perspectives and empirical examples.

  • We have particular interest in higher education pedagogy, critical perspectives, and increasing access to opportunities for under-represented people.
  • You might be interested in how this “changemaking” field is entering higher education and to what end and what are best pedagogical approaches to reach diverse audiences.
  • You might be skeptical about the value of design thinking and other changemaker skills that we teach and wonder whether they actually promote changemaking and social impact.
  • You might have in mind detailed and in-depth case studies of social enterprises, organizations, movements, and changemaking individuals who have not yet been revealed—historical and contemporary.
  • Social Intrapreneurship—changemaking within large established organizations—is an unexplored field and we welcome attention to that.

Please send other questions to lmurphy2@tulane.edu