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Estrategias de Desarrollo y Economía, Cohesión Social en América Latina

Social Innovation in Latin America: The Chilean Case

  • Autores: Dmitri Domanski, Jürgen Howaldt, Pablo Villalobos, Carlos Huenchuleo
  • Editor: CIEPLAN
  • Año: 2015
  • Editorial: CIEPLAN
  • Número Páginas: 88

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The overview on the national innovation system and social innovation initiatives in Chile presented here shows the weaknesses of the current innovation system, but refers at the same time to the existing potentials. In view of the dynamic of the topic, far-reaching changes can be expected for the next years.

In this process, a systematic development of a broader innovation policy as well as targeted promotion of co-operation between academia and business could help to overcome the one-sided neoliberal development strategy of the Chilean economy and to help economic activities evolve into new areas and sectors.

A crucial point for Chile and Latin America in general is to transform successful initiatives into public policy to be able to fight poverty more effectively, to affirm respect for economic, social and cultural rights (Rey de Marulanda & Tancredi 2010: 5) and to achieve more social cohesion (Esguevillas Ruiz 2013: 45). Here, integrative approaches are trend-setting regarding a new innovation policy that should include important societal stakeholders in new projects at an early stage and seek for a balance of interest between all stakeholders involved (case study 1).

The inclusion at an early stage of the social innovation process, in line with a comprehensive innovation concept, can help to work on the apparent weaknesses of the national innovation system as well as to develop impulses for Dmitri Domanski, Jürgen Howaldt, Pablo Villalobos & Carlos Huenchuleo a broad social renewal beyond neoliberal strategies and to put them into societal practice.

Such impulses can arise especially from the development of networks between stakeholders from business, academia, government and civil society. It seems that particularly the potentials of co-operations between universities and (regional) business are hardly tapped. Approaches such as the presented activities in University Social Responsibility can set trends and have even more impact in the future (case study 2).

Altogether, there is particularly a lack of a broad national innovation strategy, with the government assuming a more active role and providing important impulses. Most activities come from the civil society and find only little public support (case study 3). A series of interviews have revealed that innovation culture and social innovation policies are still quite underdeveloped in Chile.

Initiatives such as Start-Up Chile have been mentioned as valuable in the OECD (2013) Economic Survey on Chile and may contribute to the formation of an innovation culture. However, the focus is still very much on the creation of economic value and much less on social value.

It remains to be seen whether innovation activities are becoming a trend and consciousness about the meaning of innovation as a driving force of economic growth on the one hand and social change on the other hand is increasing throughout society.

The current basis of Chilean innovation policy is mainly focused on addressing the needs of companies and markets. A new policy concept is needed in order to emphasise the potential of innovation to cope with the social and ecological challenges of modern societies.

What is necessary is not only the development of specific instruments and institutional arrangements, but also Social Innovation in Latin America: The Chilean Case an integration of the concept of social innovation in Chilean public policy.

Only if economic development will be aligned with social development it will be possible to cope with the current challenges in terms of poverty eradication, reduction of inequality and reinforcement of democracy. Thus the Vienna Declaration (2011) states: “The most urgent and important innovations in the 21st century will take place in the social field” (ibid.: 2).

Based on a systematic innovation policy, the conditions to explore the potentials of the natural sciences and to make them usable for society were created in the middle of the last century. Likewise, at the beginning of the 21st century we need such a great pioneering spirit in the search for new social practices that enable us to secure the future and allow people to live “a richer and more fulfilled human life” (Rorty 2008: 191).

The observations made above point out that increased attention has to be paid to social innovation in order to develop the potential for new social practices beyond the hitherto dominant growth ideology. To this extent, a new model for innovation policy is required that shifts its focus from technological to social
innovations and systemic solutions and to a corresponding empowerment of actors, thus complementing the new conceptual understanding of social innovation with a consistent social policy.

To make such a policy powerful it is necessary to build infrastructures and institutions that provide support to social innovators. Therefore, it would require combining the social innovation potential in the social economy, civil society, business firms, academia and the state and promoting alliances between universities, companies, NGOs, communities and the government around social innovation.

At the same time, it would be necessary to empower citizens, social movements and communities and include them in the
process of social innovation and ameliorate the conditions of participation and self-management.

Considering the scientific debate in the field of social innovation, country specific analyses of innovation and social policies and their ability to foster social innovations will become more important. As mentioned above, a systematic mapping of social innovation in Latin America would provide an overview of the situation in different countries.

It would help to better analyse the decisive factor for successful diffusion of social ideas and inventions, namely the process in which these ideas and inventions spread through existing communication paths in a social system and analyse the success factors for social innovation.

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