Creating social value by empowering people: a social innovation perspective

Nadia von Jacobi*, Enrica Chiappero-Martinetti, Lara Maestripieri, Toa Giroletti

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


Initiatives across the private, public, and third sectors have increasingly pursued social value beyond mere profit. However, how social value can be created still requires a more detailed investigation. This paper provides conceptual and empirical arguments on how initiatives of social innovation, which intentionally seek to empower people, contribute to generate social value. We investigate three European social innovation cases—which are collective entrepreneurial initiatives. Using mixed methods applied to primary nested data, we first find evidence for empowering effects and then identify a typical process through which empowerment occurs. Our results suggest that social innovations catalyze empowerment through a horizontal and co-creational organizational design, providing space for individuals to propose their goals and establishing mechanisms of mutual influence that transform individual autonomy into coactive power. This process kicks off social value creation, yet its reach within society depends on how much empowerment diffuses beyond the participants in the initiative.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-27
Number of pages27
JournalAnnals of Public and Cooperative Economics
Early online date20 Jun 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Jun 2023


  • autonomy measurement, empowerment, mixed methods, social innovation, social value
  • empowerment
  • mixed methods
  • social innov
  • social value


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