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Daniel McCarthy

This chapter walks the reader through a broadly systemic analysis of three historic cases of social innovation (Dutch East India Company, Derivatives Trading and the Internet) to distil key insights or patterns of systemic change for scholars and practitioners of social innovation.  These patterns can be interpreted using conceptual tools, metaphors or heuristics from complexity theories so as to both help explain the phenomena and enable social innovators to recognize, and even replicate, patterns of systems behaviour in the complex, evolving systems they are seeking to transform.  While this chapter is not the first attempt to apply insights from complexity and chaos theories to understanding social systems, social change or innovation, it combines insights from pre-existing theories of social innovation, concepts like the “Adjacent Possible”, with ideas from chaos theory and complexity theory.  The resulting complexity-based interpretation highlights both the hope and the potential unintended consequences of any innovation.

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Daniel J. McCarthy and Sheila M. Puffer

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Stanislav V. Shekshnia, Sheila M. Puffer and Daniel J. McCarthy