From the Bottom to the Top. Empowerment as Social Innovation Hub

  • Heiko Berner
Keywords: Empowerment; social innovation; social work


Social innovations are considered to be effective measures that help to find answers to social problems (Zapf 1989). They promise to find solutions in a simple, fast and efficient way, especially under conditions of a decreasing welfare state (Kazepov et al. 2020). However, there is not one only definition or one only type of social innovation what makes it difficult to support their realization or to govern them.

The contribution develops three main forms of social innovation. The central distinguishing feature is the emergence from below, i.e. bottom-up. This kind of innovation usually has emancipatory goals. It is opposed to emergence from above, i.e. top-down. In this case, public administration or politics intend to realize solutions that tackle social problems as identified from above (Pausch 2018). A classification as simple as possible may be useful in order to come to conclusions about the governance of the different types. However, a third type of social innovation will be presented additionally. This third type combines bottom-up and top-down approaches at an early stage. This concept will be highlighted in the context of the governance of social innovation because, firstly, it is mentioned in a huge part of literature about social innovation. Secondly, its value as a means of encounter and cooperative development of innovations is underrated: Empowerment in literature about social innovation usually appears as a goal of innovative interventions or as a characteristic of social innovations. But the respective contributions often do not discuss empowerment as a method, although it is its inherent strength to mediate different perspectives, to support civil society in awareness-raising processes and to avoid paternalistic dominance of institutions (Berner 2022). Thus, the contribution introduces empowerment as a social innovation hub, that reconciles bottom-up and top-down processes.

How to Cite
Berner, H. (2023). From the Bottom to the Top. Empowerment as Social Innovation Hub. Public Administration and Regional Studies, 16(1), 165-179. Retrieved from

Most read articles by the same author(s)

Obs.: This plugin requires at least one statistics/report plugin to be enabled. If your statistics plugins provide more than one metric then please also select a main metric on the admin's site settings page and/or on the journal manager's settings pages.