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Co-delivery of social innovations: exploring the university’s role in academic engagement with society

Journal article
Authors Maureen McKelvey
Olof Zaring
Published in Industry and Innovation
Volume 25
Issue 6
Pages 594–611
ISSN 1366-2716
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Economy and Society, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE)
Department of Economy and Society
Pages 594–611
Language en
Keywords Social innovation, public good, university, society, case study
Subject categories Economics and Business


The paper provides a tripartite definition of social innovations, a type of public good involving collective action by multiple stakeholders. This public good can be regarded as a service, as it is co-delivered based on the development of multiple network and partner relationships. In explaining what social innovations are and how they are delivered, much research emphasises the role of NGOs and community-based collective action. This article starts by observing that universities can play various roles in social innovation, then theoretically explains how and why universities are involved in providing this public good. These roles have been neglected with the recent emphasis on university commercialisation, for example, via patents and start-ups. We use this insight to propose a conceptual framework for understanding how and why universities can organise the co-delivery of social innovations through education. This framework is illustrated with a case study, leading to propositions for later research.

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