Social Means Do Not Justify Corruptible Ends: A Realist Perspective of Social Innovation and Design
Journal article, 2016

This article introduces designers to the dilemma that arises when twin aspects of social innovation—social means and social ends—do not align. Some academics have noted the anti-social, anti-political, and anti-inventive effects emerging from the spread of microfinance practices. We discuss the tendency for social design and innovation literature to focus on design processes rather than outcomes, and introduce ideas from realist political theory to account for the corruptibility of social innovations. We suggest that designers can prevent the corruption of social outcomes by shifting from idealist “what if” scenarios to realist “who whom?” questions instead.

Social design


Design rationale

User participation


Otto Von Busch

Parsons School of Design

Karl Palmås

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Science, Technology and Society

She Ji

24058726 (ISSN) 24058718 (eISSN)

Vol. 2 4 275-287

Subject Categories


Civil Engineering

Political Science

Areas of Advance

Building Futures (2010-2018)

Driving Forces

Innovation and entrepreneurship



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8/8/2023 6