Social Innovation Impact / ISI


»Social innovation« is not a new term in innovation research and is becoming increasingly important as a new type of innovation and social change. The research field is characterized by conceptual differences that understand social innovation as a mechanism for problem solving or a more general change in social practices. Regardless of the term, the impact of social innovations is very difficult to grasp. Even at the level of individual organizations, current research reveals significant difficulties.

Indicators and metrics in the field of social innovation are only emerging. Although there have been attempts to systematically develop a social innovation metric (IndiSi, IndiSiPlus), these are currently still in an exploratory phase and primarily relate to measuring social innovations and less to assessing their effects and added social value.


The central goal of the project »Impact of Social Innovations« (ISI), funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, is to create significant theoretical and empirical advances in recording the impact of social innovations by linking the research fields of social innovation and impact measurement.


ISI develops a broad conceptual understanding of social innovation and aggregates experience in social impact measurement at an organizational level to develop an instrument for impact monitoring of social innovations. This serves as the basis for a dynamic panel for long-term monitoring of the effects of social innovations, which includes many actors, fields and impacts, can consider them ex-post and ex-ante and can be flexibly expanded in the future.

Four fields of social innovation are examined as application examples in the project:


The project will develop individual impact models in these four fields and combine them in one dynamic model. Additionally, a survey instrument will be developed that covers the broadest possible spectrum of impacts. This includes, for example, the assessment of effects at the level of social discourse. Such an approach will conceptually address the research gaps presented on the three levels (definition, impact measurement, and impact-related innovation metrics) and create an empirical basis for long-term monitoring of social innovations, both in terms of activities and actors and in terms of monitoring and assessing consequences.

Bild für ISI Projektinfo EN
Fig. 1. ISI – Project structure

Project partners

Ruprecht-Karls-University Heidelberg
Centre for Social Investment (CSI)
Dr. Georg Mildenberger (Project coordinator)
Westphalian University of Applied Sciences Gelsenkirchen
IAT, Research department »Innovation, Space & Culture«
Dr. Judith Terstriep & Maria Rabadjieva
University Mannheim
Institute for SME Research at the University of Mannheim (ifm)
Prof. Dr. Dominika Wruk & Prof. Dr. Achim Oberg