The aim of this paper is to develop a conceptual framework that takes both process and outcome of social enterprises into account, with a particular focus on the internal and external dimensions of participation and governance. Such a distinction seems particularly important to flesh out the interdependence of social innovation and the structures it is embedded in. Innovation and learning processes in both an innovating organisation and its environment must be compatible at least to some extent to achieve an outcome that both satisfies needs and lives up to claims of legitimacy.
In our analysis, we will combine insights from current social innovation research with methodological and epistemological concepts developed in the classical sociology of Max Weber and in the democratic theory of Jürgen Habermas. This places social innovation firmly at the intersection between societal spheres and contributes to a more comprehensive theoretical view on social innovation as an integrated model of both process and outcome.