Social Learning from Co-creation Cities on an environmental mission



Published Apr 30, 2023
Renée van Dis

Mireille Matt

Evelyne Lhoste

Lasse Bundgaard

Allison Marie Loconto


In innovation studies, and particularly those dedicated to agricultural and environmental innovations, there has been a robust stream of research focused on understanding how multi-stakeholder groups learn from their experiences in order to implement and scale-up system innovations. This stream of research has been referred to as social learning and has focused on how groups of multiple stakeholders are able to move system innovations from protected niches into broader scale application within society. Social learning scholars mention the importance of reflexivity when learning contexts are characterised by diverse values, interests and knowledge, such as is found in co-creation processes that include actors from the quadruple helix. Other scholars argue that while the learning process itself is important, it is insufficient for transformational change – particularly when the desired change is at the societal level. A vision of actors from the quadruple helix as givers of meaning to problems, new technologies, social innovations and potential societal impact is thus required. In this short commentary, we reflect upon the linkages between visions, problem formulation and social learning when co-creation is used as a means to stimulate collective work among multiple stakeholders. We reflect upon the promises and the limits of co-creation, and the social learning that it catalyses, in the context of environmental missions.


How to Cite

van Dis, R., Matt, M., Lhoste, E., Bundgaard, L. and Loconto, A. M. (2023) “Social Learning from Co-creation: Cities on an environmental mission”, The International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food. Paris, France, 29(1), pp. 73–79. doi: 10.48416/ijsaf.v29i1.604.
Abstract 49 | PDF Downloads 15



co-creation, social learning, missions, cities, impact

Beck U, Giddens A, and Lash S (1994) Reflexive modernization: Politics, tradition and aesthetics in the modern social order. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.
Beers P J and van Mierlo B (2017) Reflexivity and Learning in System Innovation Processes. Sociologia Ruralis 57: 415-436.
Beers P J, van Mierlo B and Hoes A C (2016) Toward an integrative perspective on social learning in system innovation initiatives. Ecology & Society 21(1): 33.
Blay-Palmer A (2009) The Canadian pioneer: The genesis of urban food policy in Toronto. International planning studies 14(4): 401-416.
Bos J J and Brown R R (2012) Governance experimentation and factors of success in socio-technical transitions in the urban water sector. Technological Forecasting and Social Change 79 (7): 1340–1353
Bozeman B and Sarewitz D (2011) Public Value Mapping and Science Policy Evaluation. Minerva 49: 1–23.
Cagnin C, Amanatidou E and Keenan M (2012) Orienting European innovation systems towards grand challenges and the roles that FTA can play. Sci. Public Policy 39: 140–152.
Copus C (2003) Re-engaging citizens and councils: The importance of the councillor to enhanced citizen involvement. Local Government Studies 29(2): 32-51.
Chiffoleau Y and Loconto AM (2018) Social Innovation in Agriculture and Food: Old Wine in New Bottles? The International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food 24(3): 306-317.
Durugbo C and Pawar K (2014) A unified model of the co-creation process. Expert Systems with Applications 41(9): 4373-4387.
Friedmann H, (2007) Scaling up: Bringing public institutions and food service corporations into the project for a local, sustainable food system in Ontario. Agriculture and Human Values 24: 389-398.
Galan J, Galiana F, Kotze D J, Lynch K, Torreggiani D, and Pedroli B (2023) Landscape adaptation to climate change: Local networks, social learning and co-creation processes for adaptive planning. Global Environmental Change 78: 102627.
Gertler M S and Wolfe D A (2002) Innovation and social learning: Institutional adaptation in an era of technological change. London: Palgrave Macmillan UK.
Klein J-l, Laville J-l and Moulaert F (2014) L'Innovation sociale. Paris: érès.
Korten D C (2018) The management of social transformation. Democracy, Bureaucracy, and the Study of Administration pp. 476-497.
Kuhlmann S and Rip A (2014) The Challenge of Addressing Grand Challenges: A Think Piece on How Innovation Can Be Driven Towards the “Grand Challenges” as Defined under the Prospective European Union Framework Programme Horizon 2020. Brussels, Belgium: European Research and Innovation Area Board (ERIAB).
Levin K, Cashore B, Bernstein S, and Auld G (2012) Overcoming the tragedy of super wicked problems: constraining our future selves to ameliorate global climate change. Policy Sciences 45(2): 123-152. doi:10.1007/s11077-012-9151-0
Lowndes V, Pratchett L and Stoker G (2001) Trends in public participation: Part 2-Citizens' perspectives. Public administration 79(2): 445-455.
Manzoli F, Simone A, Pellizzone A, et al. (2024) Co-creation in open innovation settings. An Italian case study. SocArXiv. Available from:
Matt M, Gaunand A, Joly P-B and Colinet L (2017) Opening the Black Box of Impact – Ideal-Type Impact Pathways in a Public Agricultural Research Organization Research Policy 46: 207–18.
Mazzonetto M, Zolotonosa M, Fenollosa C, Simone A, Manzoli F, Pellizzone A, Marcel M (2023) Co-creation methodology toolkit. Zenodo.
Molas-Gallart J, Boni A, Giachi S, and Schot J (2021) A formative approach to the evaluation of Transformative Innovation Policies. Research Evaluation 30(August): 431–442.
Podda A, Loconto AM, Arcidiacono D and Maestriprieti L (2021) Exploring prosumption: Reconfiguring labor through rural-urban food networks? Journal of Rural Studies 82: 442-446.
Podda A, Maestripieri L, Loconto A and Arcidiacono D (2018) Introducing the wave of the prosumers in the age of labour market shattering. Sociologia di Lavoro 152(4): 7-22.
Randles S, Larédo P, Loconto A, Walhout B, and Lindner R (2016) Framings and frameworks: six grand narratives of de facto RRI. Navigating Towards Shared Responsibility in Research and Innovation. Approach, Process and Results of the Res-AGorA Project, Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI), 9-783000-517099.
Robinson DKR and Mazzucato M (2019) The evolution of mission-oriented policies: Exploring changing market creating policies in the US and European space sector. Research Policy 48(4): 936-948.
Robinson DKR, Simone A and Mazzonetto M (2020) RRI legacies: co-creation for responsible, equitable and fair innovation in Horizon Europe. Journal of Responsible Innovation 8(2): 209-216. 10.1080/23299460.2020.1842633
Sintomer Y, Herzberg C and Röcke A (2008) Participatory budgeting in Europe: Potentials and challenges. International journal of urban and regional research 32(1): 164-178.
Torfing J, Sørensen E and Røiseland A (2019) Transforming the public sector into an arena for co-creation: Barriers, drivers, benefits and ways forward Administration & Society 51(5): 795-825.
van Drooge L and Spaapen J (2022) Evaluation and monitoring of transdisciplinary collaborations. The Journal of Technology Transfer 47: 747–761.
Von Hippel E (2005) Democratizing innovation: The evolving phenomenon of user innovation. Journal für Betriebswirtschaft 55: 63–78.
Von Schomberg R. (2013). A vision of responsible research and innovation. In Owen R, Bessant J and Heintz M (eds) Responsible Innovation: Managing the Responsible Emergence of Science and Innovation in Society. Wiley: Chichester, UK, pp. 51–74.
Wals A E J, Caporali F, Pace P, Slee B, Sriskandarajah N, and Warren M (2004) Education for integrated rural development: transformative learning in a complex and uncertain world. The Journal of agricultural education and extension 10(2): 89-100.
Wals A E J (ed) (2007) Social learning towards a sustainable world Wageningen, The Netherlands: Wageningen Academic Publishers.
Wanzenböck I, Wesseling J H, Frenken K, Hekkert M P, and Weber K M (2020) A framework for mission-oriented innovation policy: Alternative pathways through the problem–solution space. Science and public policy 47(4): 474-489.

Funding data