Each of the ITSSOIN work descriptions refers to the empirical investigation of third sector impact as social innovation in the following specific fields, most of which are grouped in dyads: culture & arts (WP4), social services and health care (WP5), environmental sustainability and consumer protection in finance (WP6), work integration and community development (WP7). Each of these fields is currently investigated against the background of 3-4 ITSSOIN partner countries.
In each work package the research process follows the same three major steps, which will therefore be illustrated here. Field-specific variations are described in the individual work packages.
1. Empirical descriptions of the third sector in the specific fields
Guiding questions in the first part of the field-country investigations were: What data exists for describing the different roles of actors in a specific field, and can they be associated with the aspect of social innovation? How can we structurally describe the field? To what power dynamics is it exposed and what changes has it recently faced? Against the background of those aspects, what trends can be found regarding the socially innovative capacity of the field? What role does the third sector play in the development and constitution of the field? For depicting this we explored different data sources ranging from statistics such as EUROSTAT and national statistical offices to expert interviews and other qualitative data.
2. Framework for social innovations
For the comparative data collection and the analysis of illustrative cases (including, for instance, organisations, networks, informal groups) in terms of social innovation and civic engagement, a standardised framework has been developed. First of all, in combination with desk research and expert consultations a description of the seven ITSSOIN fields has been provided which reports on important actors, structures, and current developments in the field. Based on this, central social innovation trends could be identified in each field. On that basis a selection of social innovations is currently conducted in each field that will be analysed in a case study in the previously selected 3-4 countries for each field.
3. Case-based work
During this step, the hypotheses, which were developed at the very beginning of the project and specified, complemented, and extended over the course of WP2 and WP3 as well as during the research in WP4 to WP7, will be tested empirically by an in-depth investigation of the cases selected in the previous step. The advantages of the case-study approach will be the clear definition of the analysed object, the use of different information sources, and the proximity of the researchers to the object of analysis. This research approach allows for an analysis of the selected cases in their natural setting and enables us to additionally test the initial hypotheses on an organisational level. Not only will this render the investigation even more profound. Taking the organisational level into account will also provide us with highly insightful data for a promising inter-country comparison.