Identifying Sources of Innovation: Building a Conceptual Framework of the Smart City through a Social Innovation Perspective

Emilio Costales

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A comprehensive theory of Smart Cities continues to elude scholars. This seems to result from ontological uncertainty surrounding the Smart City and who it serves. Such uncertainty has led to the techno-centric versus human-centric debate currently dominating the Smart City discussion. This paper adopts a systems approach to stratify society into three strata: the individual(micro), organizational(meso), and system(macro). I implement a systematic review of the Smart City literature to examine how Smart Cities are conceptualized. From an analysis of 41 papers, this research identifies a dualistic phenomenon occurring at all points in the stratified city system: sources of innovation (SOI) and Loci of change (LOC). Here, SOI refers to the perceptions of deficiencies which initiate the learning curve of innovation, while LOC refers to the structures which allow the learning curve to disseminate through the system. This analysis highlights an overemphasis on the organizational stratum and insufficient attention to the individual and system strata. To address this shortfall, I introduce the Social Innovation Cycle. This multi-level social innovation framework incorporates the interdependencies of SOI and LOC to link all strata, mitigate power asymmetries, and reduce marginalization. In so doing, I delineate where policy implementation can be directed for holistically developing the Smart City. I recommend that Smart City policy should target the intersection of SOI and LOC in pursuit of human-centricity.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103459
Early online date5 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

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