Through the SOCRISIS project we aim to contribute to three debates regarding social innovation and democratic leadership practices.

First, the question as to what extent historically and geographically influenced features (such as civic capacity, social capital, urban morphology, public facilities and amenities, sense of belonging, socio-demographic composition, etc.) enable or constrain the emergence of social innovation, its effectiveness and its scalability. Our hypothesis is that those neighbourhoods with greater civic capacity produce socially innovative responses that are more effective and have greater potential for scalability.

Second, assuming that processes of social innovation are spatially and institutionally embedded, we claim that some leadership practices (at the community or organizational level) not only enable the emergence of such processes but also foster their sustainability and increase their impact. Our hypothesis is that democratic forms of collective leadership produce social innovation that is more effective and has a greater chance of being scalable. Hence, agency – in the form of leadership practices – is also important for understanding how social innovation works, especially in those contexts where neighbourhood features constrain socially innovative initiatives. We explore the extent to which new forms of leadership that emerged following the 2011 urban rebellions could constitute interesting practices with respect to doing things in a democratic and inclusive way.

Third, we want to show that social innovation can effectively contribute to social change, and to better understand how it does so. We aim to demonstrate how socially innovative initiatives, through democratic leadership practices, can be understood as an egalitarian, inclusive, and transformative form of radical democracy.