Research project

Political innovation – Civil Society-led Initiatives Intervening in Political Systems

The research project Political Innovation centres on a nascent field of practice led by civil society organisations (CSOs) diagnosing political problems and developing inner-systemic solutions with the objective to strengthen and revitalise democracy. Solutions can materialise in the form of products, processes or technologies to solve a problem or to enact new ways of doing politics. In response to ex- as well as internal threats to democracy and deteriorating democracies worldwide, we observe the emergence of a practice where citizens organise innovation geared towards reforming or transforming existing (democratic) political systems from within, rather than disrupting them. 

What began as an observation of two young German CSOs experimenting with novel ways to build bridges between civil society and parliamentary politics in February 2022 has since developed into an interdisciplinary project examining how similar initiatives organise within and navigate their environments across six continents. We interrogate the different roles political innovation actors take on in the field in their endeavour to re-ground politics at all levels in the key principles of democracy (justice, equality, representation and participation). The phenomenon of political innovation necessitates an expansion of our understanding of social innovation as interrelated with ‘the political’, as actors operating in this field view both social change and political change as central to their agendas.

Who we are

  • Johanna Mair, Professor for Organization, Strategy and Leadership

  • Sébastien MenaProfessor of Organization and Governance

  • Josefa Kindt, Research Associate

  • Roxanne Drewry, Student Research Assistant