Introducing the adopter perspective in social innovation research

It is generally well-accepted in innovation research that consumer/user adoption of an invention is key to its diffusion. Despite general awareness about the importance of the adopter perspective in innovation diffusion, the majority of the literature on social innovation, hardly addresses the adoption-side of innovation diffusion. Social innovation potential therefore often remains under-utilized. In this paper the result of a review of 468 (predominantly English language) publications on social innovation is provided (based on Web of Science), searching for the adopter perspective in social innovation research. The findings show that, although some hints at the role of adopters, and their environment, can be found in the literature, attention for the willingness and capacities of potential adopters is meager in peer-reviewed publications. Propelled by high policy expectations, at the national as well as European level, scientific interest in social innovation has been booming over the last decade. Without a proper understanding of social innovation diffusion dynamics and adopter willingness and their interactions with existing institutions, expectations may not be fulfilled and specific social innovation policies that have been emerging across Europe may not be able to achieve intended policy goals.

Hölsgens, R. (2022). Introducing the adopter perspective in social innovation research. Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research, 35(2), 245–264.