This paper discusses the need for societal innovation as a systemic form of innovation for sustainable development. Sustainable development requires collective action from stakeholders in the form of system building activities, which in its turn requires societal innovation. Through societal innovation, based on multiple value creation, external costs are being prevented or reduced because of innovation-oriented explorations within a wider frame (a societal improvement perspective), ascertained by the actors. This requires design thinking and proper distribution of the costs and benefits, accepted by the participants. With this paper, we hope to advance the research agenda on societal innovation based on multi-actor improvement processes and associated intentional logics, as topics that are weakly theorized in the business literature on sustainable development and the sustainability transition literature. We are critical of triple helix models and models emphasizing shared value creation because these underestimate the importance of disinterest and conflicts of interests to be managed via multiple value creation on the basis of recursive multi-actor intentionality.
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