Disentangling Co-creation and Social Innovation: A theoretical and practical exploration to maximise potential impact and tackle grand challenges in the European Union

Research output: Ph.D. ThesisPhD Research internal, graduation internal

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Co-creation and social innovation are currently linked concepts in both policy and academic research. Almost always, the attitude towards these concepts is intrinsically positive, although evidence of their added value is lacking. In my research, I looked at the development of social innovation and co-creation in theory and practice. By analysing the use of these notions in EU policies, EU grants and awarded EU projects, I was able to show that both concepts are not only unclear, but are also mutually strengthen and add value to each other. For example, co-creation is seen as an integral part of social innovation and therefore stakeholder involvement is sufficient to qualify as good social innovation, without further evidence. A systematic literature review supports these findings.
Because of the ambiguity of both concepts and the fact that they reinforce each other, there is hardly any attention to the quality of co-creation as such within social innovation. We witness this not only in social innovation projects, but also, for example, in so-called living labs. In order to monitor and improve the quality of co-creation within social innovation, an evaluation framework was developed based on a systematic literature review. This framework can be used by both policy makers and participants in social innovation projects.
Translated title of the contributionHet ontwarren van sociale innovatie en co-creatie: Een theoretische en praktische exploratie om potentiele impct te maximaliseren en maatschappelijke uitdagingen te tackelen
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Groningen, Faculty of Spatial Sciences, Department of Spatial Planning and Environment
  • Bulder, E.A.M., Supervisor
  • Horlings, Lummina G., Supervisor, External person
Thesis sponsors
Award date9 Nov 2023
Place of PublicationGroningen
Print ISBNs9789464732511
Publication statusPublished - 9 Nov 2023


  • co-creation
  • social innovation
  • EU
  • policy
  • living labs

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