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Beyond instrumentalism: Broadening the understanding of social innovation in socio-technical energy systems
Energy Research & Social Science 70 (2020) 101689

July 2020 – Download

Authors: Julia M. Wittmayer (DRIFT), Tessa de Geus (DRIFT), Bonno Pel (DRIFT/Université Libre de Bruxelles), Flor Avelino (DRIFT), Sabine Hielscher (SPRU), Thomas Hoppe (TPM), Susan Mühlemeier (AES), Agata Stasik (Kozminski University), Sem Oxenaar (DRIFT), Karoline S. Rogge (SPRU/Fraunhofer ISI), Vivian Visser (ESSB), Esther Marín-González (CE3C), Merel Ooms (Platform31), Saskia Buitelaar (Platform31), Chris Foulds (Anglia Ruskin University), Kristian Petrick (Eco-Union), Salvador Klarwein (Eco-Union), Seweryn Krupnik (Jagiellonian University), Gerdien de Vries (TPM), Aleksandra Wagner (Jagiellonian University), Anja Härtwig (ICLEI Europe)

Social innovation is an important dimension of current transformations in energy systems. It can refer to alternative business models, novel policy instruments, financing schemes, participatory governance approaches to energy questions, or new discourses. Its significance for energy systems is often considered in narrow instrumentalist terms, reducing it to a tool serving particular policy objectives. Grounding the concept in social science and humanities insights, this review essay proposes a broadened social innovation understanding. We propose 1) to open up the normative complexity of the concept; 2) to appreciate the multi-actor nature of social innovation; 3) to understand it as an analytical entry point for socio-material intertwinement; and, 4) to understand social innovation as premised on experimentalism-based intervention logics. The proposed social innovation understandings provide a broader imagination and strategizing of structural changes in energy systems.


SONNET Energy Read #1: About the social dimension of energy transitions

June 2020 – Download

Authors: Niklas Mischkowski (ICLEI Europe), Julia Wittmayer (DRIFT)

In this first SONNET Energy Read, we introduce the concept of social innovation in energy transitions and show their diversity, going ‘beyond only energy cooperatives’. This diversity is portrayed in a typology and illustrated with examples, putting an emphasis on the six cities that are partners in the SONNET project. Ultimately, through this Energy Read we will see that energy transitions have inseparable social and technological dimensions to them. We hope that, by understanding these dimensions, we can support the social dynamics that are necessary to the success of the much-needed renewal of our energy systems.


SONNET Postcard

The SONNET Postcard is now available in the following languages: English, German, French, Dutch, Polish


Methodological guidelines for case study analysis

SONNET Deliverable 3.1 (April 2020) – Download

Authors: Sabine Hielscher (SPRU), Julia Wittmayer (DRIFT), Rachael Durrant (SPRU)

SONNET aims to co-create a rich understanding of the diversity, processes, contributions, successes and future potentials of social innovation in the energy sector (SIE). This deliverable addresses SONNET’s objective to identify and analyse enabling and impeding factors for SIE processes. It provides a joint research protocol for the case studies.


Report on transdisciplinary research protocol for six co-creating SIE city labs

SONNET Deliverable 4.1 (March 2020) – Download

Authors: Agata Dembek, Alicja Dańkowska, Marta Strumińska-Kutra (Kozminski University)

The transdisciplinary research protocol for SONNET’s city labs aims to propose a shared understanding of the role and methodology of SONNET’s city labs and to provide SONNET cities and researchers with guidelines for how to conduct a city lab that at the same time meets local needs and overall SONNET objectives.


Report on SONNET’s initial conceptual framework

SONNET Deliverable 1.2 (March 2020) – Download

Authors: Julia M. Wittmayer (DRIFT), Sabine Hielscher (University of Sussex), Karoline S. Rogge (University of Sussex) and Flor Avelino (DRIFT)

While there are many insights on social innovation on the one hand, and energy systems and their social processes on the other – to date these insights have hardly been brought together. In this report, we build on literature that examines processes of social innovation and their institutionalisation and relate it to insights from sustainability transitions and energy research in social sciences to build a draft conceptual framework for the study of diversity, processes and contributions of social innovation in energy (SIE).


Report on preliminary typology of social innovation in the energy sector

SONNET Deliverable 1.1 (January 2020) – Download

Authors: Julia M. Wittmayer (DRIFT), Maria Fraaije (DRIFT), Sabine Hielscher (University of Sussex), and Flor Avelino (DRIFT)

SONNET aims to co-create a rich understanding of the diversity, processes, contributions, successes and future potentials of social innovation in the energy sector (SIE). This report explores the diversity of SIE in Europe and captures it within a comprehensive SIE typology.




Authors: Agata Dembek (Kozminski University), Agata Stasik (Kozminski University), Karoline Rogge (University of Sussex)

SONNET aims to co-create a rich understanding of the diversity, processes, contributions, success and future potentials of social innovation in the energy sector (SIE). Our empirical work bridges qualitative and quantitative methodological approaches in an innovative research design. Among other research activities, given its focus on urban areas as major hubs for SIE, SONNET conducts six transdisciplinary SIE City Labs to experiment with new forms of SIE and learn about how multiple actors can harness the potential of SIE


Co-creation, Dissemination and Exploitation Strategy

SONNET Deliverable  7.1 (September 2019) – Download

Authors: Adrienne Kotler (ICLEI Europe), Ania Rok (ICLEI Europe), Anja Härtwig (ICLEI Europe), Niklas Mischkowski (ICLEI Europe), Nora Blascsok (University of Sussex) and Olga Krajewska (ICLEI Europe)

The co-creation, dissemination and exploitation strategy of SONNET describes how the knowledge and experience of consortium partners will be used for communicating about the project, disseminating its results to a wide range of audiences and ensuring that the resulting ideas, methods and recommendations are taken up and continued to be used after the project ends (exploitation).

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