'Social innovation' refers to the new strategies, concepts, ideas and organizations that strive to provide solutions for serious social challenges – from job opportunities and education to health care, social engagement, and environmental problems. The urgency of today's social innovation is being kindled by a network-driven paradigm of innovation and creativity, and mobilized by the innovation capacities of everyone in society, whatever their social role or function. The aim is to bring together people working in business, knowledge institutes, government and civil society – both within and between these domains. ‘Horizontal’ innovation, in other words, with a myriad of actors. At the same time, social innovation is founded on a fundamentally different value system than was the innovation agenda of the 20th century: it can best be described as striving towards a society that is sustainable and socially conscious in every way.
Before the general elections in The Netherlands of 2012, Chris Sigaloff of Nederland Kennisland and Marleen Stikker of Waag Society published a manifesto called 'Invest in Social innovation'. They noted that the concept of social innovation is absent in the Dutch national innovation policy and urged that a central role be given to social innovation.
As a follow-up to the manifesto, meet-ups were organized at Pakhuis de Zwijger by SINN (Social Innovation Network Netherlands). In 2013 a European initiative started to put European organisations in the field of social innovation on the map: Digital Social Innovation.