In the last decade, a new concept has emerged in Europe and the Americas to explain a ‘new’ phenomenon of societal and technological organization oriented to the resolution of social and environmental issues: social innovation.
In certain contexts, social innovators confront dominant institutions in order to achieve their political, economic, and cultural goals. This confrontation has a transformative character. In this sense, transformative social innovation may be defined as ‘changes in social relations, involving new ways of doing, organizing, framing and/or knowing, which challenge, alter, and/or replace established (dominant) institutions in a specific socio-material context.’ This framework, developed as a result of the Transformative Social Innovation Theory Project, refers to the ability to design and implement new forms of social interaction that enable people and social groups to carry out strategies and deploy narratives that lead, under certain conditions, to transformative change that engenders modifications in social and/or environmental dynamics.
This article presents a conceptual framework to understand transformative social innovation, which is then used to analyze the case of the La Vía Campesina (the International Peasant Movement), focusing on: 1) the strategies employed in terms of a social innovation agent, and 2) the construction of narratives of change oriented to empower peasants and generate a collective identity of the peasantry at a global level.
Finally, the article presents closing remarks in order to conceptualize the social innovation capabilities of certain global movements (such as La Vía Campesina) and their achievements related to inclusive sustainable development, where food production and distribution, as well as territorial development, are fundamental.