The discourse of social innovation and gender equality


By Johanna Lauri

In Swedish government discourse, social entrepreneurship and social innovation have come to be articulated as the solutions to a wide array of societal challenges and social problems. Within this discourse of social innovation, gender equality is articulated as a key determinant in conquering all societal challenges defined in the UN’s Agenda 2030. The aim of this paper is to analyse the Swedish government’s discourse on social innovation, and how it intertwines with gender equality in select government texts and media material. The analysis starts from the assertion that the dominant discourse on social innovation and social entrepreneurs is part of generating the possibilities and limits of social change. Earlier research on social innovation discourse has shown a strong bias towards private market solutions, and that social innovation has become an essential trait in the neoliberal reforming of the state. Because of their particular influence, governments’ public endorsement of social entrepreneurs and social innovation in their work is one of the factors shaping the understanding of what social change and gender equality are and how they can be achieved. The analysis shows that the government discourse of social innovation produces an understanding of businesses as having a strong desire and capacity for social change and an altruistic agency. From a discursive point of view, this could be read as if the public sector is lacking such qualities and thus the responsibility for social change is placed in the hands of private corporations. Social change and gender equality are hence made intelligible within an economic logic, equating social change with doing business and gender equality with making profit. Gender equality is thus articulated through the discourse of social innovation, as a means to an end.

page: 27 – 43
Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 1
SKU: 370103

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