In this paper I propose an analytical framework to understand social innovation and scaling social innovation in the welfare state with attention to the shifts that the welfare state and the organisations and initiatives occupying the third space between state and market economy are undergoing. The background of my theoretical and analytical choices is a consideration of a complex society in need of analytical instruments that account for that complexity.
In the next section I present major changes welfare states are undergoing and show the coherence with the current meaning and relevance of social innovation, social entrepreneurship and the emphasis on scaling and diffusion. Then, I present the theoretical background discussing the
Schumpeterian contribution to social innovation and social entrepreneurship articulated with debates on institutions. I argue that the existing literature on welfare models shows signs of the persistence of structural differences. I then propose to discuss the cycle of social innovation in relation to the institutions of the welfare state using the strategic relational approach (SRA) and the evolutionary moments as a heuristic device.
Finally, I discuss current changes and the evidence of commonalities in many processes of welfare restructuring and scaling social innovation related to a shift from hierarchy to heterarchy. I argue that an analytical perspective capable to grasp the impact of these changes in the possibilities of scaling social innovation must explore the capacity of this concept to provide an insight to current complexity.