The world today is facing immense challenges that not just impact the quality of our lives—some even impact the long-term habitability of our planet itself. The challenges are sweeping in their scope and complexity, such as poverty, hunger, lack of education, and gender inequality. These challenges will not be solved with government action alone. Rather, significant progress requires the meaningful involvement of organizations—particularly for-profit enterprises. Nevertheless, managers need guidance and rigorous frameworks to efficiently and effectively make progress in providing solutions to these systemic challenges. In the pursuit of this cause, we argue that academic researchers—specifically service researchers—are uniquely positioned to contribute to this cause.
The goal of this paper is to provide a framework for guiding social innovation in service (SIS), defined as the creation of novel, scalable, and sustainable market-based service offerings that solve systemic societal problems. Through a review and synthesis of transdisciplinary literatures, we establish a basis for the conceptual framework proposed for SIS. It is argued that the primary unit of SIS is the service firm and that there are micro, meso, and macro level actors and enablers in the ecosystem that can help bring about and implement social innovation in service. Actors are the individuals, groups or entities that are involved in initiating, influencing and/or implementing SIS while enablers are those factors that facilitate initiation, influence and /or implementation of SIS.
The micro level actors encompass individuals within a company who are catalysts for SIS. These individual actors bring forth and use their resources in interacting with other actors at the micro-level or higher levels. The roles of these individuals may range from front-line service employees to managers to C-level executives within the company. The proposed individual level enablers that facilitate SIS are: psychological capital, risk-taking, and compassion.
The meso level actor describes the company and enablers describe company characteristics and processes that are the catalyst for SIS. The latter is what enables effective social innovation processes within the company. The proposed company level enablers that facilitate SIS are: organizational culture, institutional elements, empowerment, and leadership.
At the macro level, actors are organizations or groups external to the company and consisting of various entities such as service organizations, communities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and governments that the company interacts with. The proposed macro level enablers that facilitate SIS are: economic factor, government policy and technology.
This paper contributes to the social innovation and service literature by: (a) offering a new, scientifically supported view of corporate social innovation; (b) providing managers with a framework to guide social innovation within their company; and (c) directing service scholars to research issues necessary to advance corporate social innovation in service.