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The Swedish national innovation strategy highlights an ambition to make innovation “more natural and relevant for more people”. This comes from a realisation that the innovation system has traditionally focused on and promoted the high-tech industries in Sweden such as biotechnology and information and communication technologies (ICT). This has led to a marginalization of a number of groups including females, immigrants, and non-technological business and academic sectors in the innovation system.

Social innovation is about challenging norms and finding solutions that lead to new and better social structures and relations, and therefore, adopting a social innovation perspective in innovation policy and research has the potential to open up for more inclusive policies, processes, networks, and innovation research. With Sweden’s long tradition of analysing gender patterns in society and organizations, there is a possibility for Sweden to become a frontrunner in the discipline.


Social innovation is time and context specific. That means it  can mean different things in different context. What might not seem innovative in one country, may be ground breaking in another. The political and cultural background is important to understand. There are also a wide variety of organisations involved in this field, each have different perspectives.  So, the purpose of this page is to demonstrate a variety of views on what social innovation means to different kinds of organisations in Sweden.

The voices from Sweden:

In 2011, Mötesplats Social Innovation prepared a brief summary on what social innovation looks like in Sweden. They delved into the the three levels of social innovation that exist in Sweden:

  • Grassroots initiatives that are meeting social needs which are not met by the public sector nor the present market, in new and innovative ways.
  • Social innovation where the boundaries between different sectors of society become blurred and where the innovation addresses the entire community.
  • System-changing social innovations that seek to change values, cultures, strategies and policies.

To gain a more general understanding of social innovation in Sweden, click here to read their full contribution.

In late 2014, Lund Univeristy, Malmö University and the Centre for Social Entrepreneurship Sweden published a report representing the continuation of a national dialogue among actors across Sweden with the aim of identifying promising areas of development for the social innovation system. The output of this dialogue is a list of suggestions that would support the advancement of social innovation knowledge and practice within academia, the public sector, civil society and business. Their recommendations are focused around four areas that are needed in order to grow the competence and capacity for social innovation in Sweden.

  • Knowledge: Sweden needs knowledge development related to social innovation on a theoretical, empirical and methodogical level; as well as an increased awareness of social innovation, social entrepreneurship and social enterprises.
  • Organization & Democratization: Social innovation is more effective when organized in various ways. Therefore, support for the expansion of social innovation support across Sweden is needed, and democratic and norm critical perspectives should be present in the development welfare innovations.
  • Financing: Successful social innovations secure sustainable financing for the development and implementation of activities, production and services. Therefore, a diversity of financial instruments that support the development of social innovations is needed. 
  • Competence: Sweden needs to support competence development through education, the inclusion of facilitators of innovation processes (intermediaries), and increased competence within the established innovation system to support social innovation and social entrepreneurs. 

"An Ecosystem of Social Innovation in Sweden: A strategic research and innovation agenda" can be accessed here.


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