Policy impacts on social innovation in forestry and back: Institutional change as a driver and outcome

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The forest sector in various ways fosters employment, community development and prevents depopulation in marginalized rural areas. Since the economic recession in Europe from 2009, there has been a notable change regarding the roles that public and private actors play in tackling current social and economic problems. The term Social Innovation (SI) came up to denote the overcoming of complex societal challenges with an increase of engagement of civil society (private actors). So far, collective values of ecosystem services, health and recreational benefits have been researched extensively. But the role of policies in socially innovative forest sector activities for the enhancement of collective action and collective benefits still leaves room for research.

This article asks how relevant were policies as drivers of institutional change for forestry related examples of social innovation. The question is examined across different European countries with a focus on the policies identified as relevant for these innovations by a panel of experts and researchers. We used selected case studies in combination with literature as well as policy document analysis and complementary policy expert interviews. We focus on the policies that have affected these activities and investigate in detail on their relevance for the outcome (the SI). Our findings indicate that there is more than one direction of policies impacting upon the SI initiatives, because vice-versa, there is also SI impacting on the policies. Both directions lead to institutional change in the final outcomes, either in the policy design (bottom-up influence) or in the social innovation (ultimately changes in the actors-institutions relations and the creation of new institutions with the SI). Policies can be either drivers of SI or they can be outcome when new policies were created because of the transformative effects of SI. Furthermore, we detect policies that turn out “neutral” towards social innovation at the moment but with potential effects in future.

*This paper is co-authored by the researcher from the Forest Policy Research Network


Ludvig, A.; Sarkki, S.; Weiss, G.; Zivojinovic, I. 2021. Policy impacts on social innovation in forestry and back: Institutional change as a driver and outcome. Forest Policy and Economics, 122, 102335.