Transforming the relational dynamics of urban governance: how social innovation research can create a trajectory for learning and change

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This article examines how social innovation (SI) research can co-produce transformative change in cities. A key challenge is to diffuse and sustain SIs in ways that transform the relational webs that constitute local spaces and their governance. The relational approach to SI is conceptually promising in this respect, but its foundations and practices need to be further developed. Therefore, I develop a relational ‘theory–methods package’ of practice theory and action research. By co-producing immediately usable insights, experiences and artefacts in the daily practice of SI, this approach enables researchers to gradually create conditions for a transformative trajectory of learning and change in urban governance. I critically appraise four research practices in the context of SI in Dutch urban governance and reflect on the transformative potential of this relational theory–methods package.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalUrban Studies
Early online date9 Jan 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Jan 2020


  • social innovation, urban governance, relationality, transformation, action research, practice theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas