The double bind of social innovation: Relational dynamics of change and resistance in neighbourhood governance

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Colleges, School and Institutes


While current discourse promotes social innovation as a normative good, in practice it is highly contested by institutionalised ways of thinking, acting and organising. Concurrently stimulating and resisting innovation creates a ‘double bind’ of conflicting communicative signals that weaken capacities for joint sense making and sustainable change. I develop a meta-theoretical framework that explains what is involved in these relational dynamics of change and resistance, how these can be assessed and improved, and why the double bind both necessitates and inhibits substantive change. Analysing relational dynamics in a case of neighbourhood governance in Amsterdam, I argue that social innovators should be prepared to constructively confront rationalistic evaluation, defensiveness, and experiential detachment while institutional actors should welcome fundamental relational transformations of hierarchical and competitive dynamics institutionalised in urban governance.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3789–3805
JournalUrban Studies
Issue number16
Early online date11 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017


  • communication, neighbourhood governance, practice, relationality, social innovation