Over the last decade, the term social innovation has received increased attention as a potential solution to address complex global social problems and to add collective values to society. The forest sector has great potential for fostering employment, community development and reducing increased emigration from rural to urban areas. This potential is not always realised, especially in economically weak and remote rural areas. Hence, this paper tackles the question of how social innovations in forestry are able to succeed under adverse circumstances and contribute to respond to some of the before mentioned challenges? To answer this question, we first identified four very different cases across Europe that are compatible with the criteria of social innovation. Proceeding from this starting point, comparative research was undertaken with the aim to identify the cases´ specific features and key criteria for success. In the cases considered, it is evident that the sheer determination and voluntary investment of time and effort by key individuals, who were convinced of the value of the idea for the community, provided indispensable impetus to all four social innovations. In drawing its conclusions, this paper highlights the principal areas that need consideration and that hence have implications when developing supportive policies. Furthermore, we provide some insight into future research topics that would allow us to better understand the positive impacts of social innovation in the forest-based sector.
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