The emergence of a Social Innovation Ecosystem in Portugal: An exploratory approach based on the perspective of strategic stakeholders

La emergencia de un Ecosistema de Innovación Social en Portugal: Un enfoque exploratorio basado en la perspectiva de los actores estratégicos


  • Hugo Pinto Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra & Faculty of Economics, University of Algarve
  • Sílvia Ferreira Faculty of Economics, University of Coimbra & Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra
  • Jorge André Guerreiro Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra


social innovation, ecosystems, complexity, social economy, social enterprises


The concept of ecosystem has been used to describe a dynamic set of relationships, services and interdependencies that potentiate the creation, renewal and growth of organizations. Social innovation is largely influenced by ecosystem conditions. The Portuguese social innovation ecosystem is a particularly interesting case study, as it assumes a hybrid structure that expresses a variety of policy schemes, networks and support structures. This article debates the concept of social innovation ecosystem and presents an exploratory approach to its mapping. Based on interviews with strategic stakeholders in the social and solidarity economy and social enterprises, the study elaborates on the specificities of the social innovation ecosystem. The Portuguese ecosystem is comprised of three sub-ecosystems that show different weights, limited connections and overlapping: social economy, social business, and the social solidarity ecosystem. The article concludes with an overview of the current state of social innovation, emphasizing the perspectives of stakeholders on recent experiences that the Portuguese state has developed in establishing dialogue within organizations integrating social innovation dynamics.



El concepto de ecosistema se ha utilizado para describir un conjunto dinámico de relaciones, servicios e interdependencias que potencian la creación, la renovación y el crecimiento de las organizaciones. La innovación social se ve influida en gran medida por las condiciones del ecosistema. El ecosistema portugués de innovación social es un caso de estudio particularmente interesante, ya que asume una estructura híbrida que expresa una variedad de esquemas políticos, redes y estructuras de apoyo. Este artículo debate el concepto de ecosistema de innovación social y presenta un enfoque exploratorio para su mapeo. A partir de entrevistas con actores estratégicos de la economía social y solidaria y con empresas sociales, el estudio profundiza en las especificidades del ecosistema de innovación social. El ecosistema portugués se compone de tres sub-ecosistemas que muestran un peso diferente, conexiones limitadas y solapamientos: la economía social, la empresa social y el ecosistema de la solidaridad social. El artículo concluye con una visión general del estado actual de la innovación social, haciendo hincapié en las perspectivas de las partes interesadas sobre las recientes experiencias que el Estado portugués ha desarrollado para establecer el diálogo dentro de las organizaciones que integran la dinámica de la innovación social.

Palabras clave: innovación social; ecosistemas; complejidad; economía social; empresas sociales.




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How to Cite

Pinto, H., Ferreira, S. ., & Guerreiro, J. A. (2021). The emergence of a Social Innovation Ecosystem in Portugal: An exploratory approach based on the perspective of strategic stakeholders: La emergencia de un Ecosistema de Innovación Social en Portugal: Un enfoque exploratorio basado en la perspectiva de los actores estratégicos. European Public & Social Innovation Review, 6(2), 15–34. Retrieved from



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