This chapter summarizes the interesting patterns that characterize the evolution of social innovation over time. Social innovations that succeed in transforming intractable problem domains take time: these cases span from seventy to over two hundred years. They are ignited by new social philosophies in most cases, new products or technological inventions in others. Through the activities of a relay team of social and institutional entrepreneurs, those original ideas and initiatives combine and recombine over time with other “adjacent” streams of activity, often in an attempt to secure additional resources of power or capital. As a result most successful social innovations are a collection of elements, some of which are in tension with each other. It is these tensions that continue to drive the evolution of the innovations. This chapter concludes with identification of aspects of early stage social innovations that are key to identifying those with transformative potential.
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