Social innovations in healthcare provision: an analysis of knowledge types and their spatial context

Tschumi, Pascal; Mayer, Heike (2022). Social innovations in healthcare provision: an analysis of knowledge types and their spatial context. Geografiska annaler: Series B, Human geography, 106(1), pp. 28-48. Taylor & Francis 10.1080/04353684.2022.2124927

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Peripheral regions face the challenge of ensuring adequate healthcare provision. As a solution to such challenges, social innovations are introduced. In relevant literature, it is recognized that the exchange of knowledge among diverse actors is a defining aspect of social innovations and that it is a crucial component of their success in peripheral areas. However, little is known about the characteristics and the spatial context of knowledge in social innovations. We address this research gap by analyzing micro-level knowledge dynamics in four social innovations in the healthcare sector of a Swiss mountain region. We distinguish three knowledge types according to the knowledge base approach: synthetic (practical and tacit), analytical (scientific and codified) and symbolic (semiotic and tacit). From innovation biographies and semi-structured interviews, we find that synthetic knowledge is the type used most throughout the whole social innovation process and that it is often combined with the other two knowledge types. Local actors and extra-local actors who are locally embedded contribute the most knowledge. The findings indicate that the social innovation actors require a considerable number of craft and practical skills to make use of their own analytical or symbolic knowledge, as well as to link these three knowledge types from different actors and spatial contexts. It seems that, in a strongly regulated sector like healthcare that primarily depends on (analytical) expert knowledge, analytical knowledge from extra-local inputs is not sufficient. Rather, highly knowledgeable, locally embedded actors are needed to combine synthetic knowledge with other knowledge types. Our findings suggest that successful social innovations combine locally and extra locally acquired synthetic knowledge with analytical and symbolic knowledge to solve peripheral healthcare challenges and to contribute to regional wellbeing.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Human Geography > Unit Economic Geography
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Human Geography
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
11 Centers of Competence > Center for Regional Economic Development (CRED)

UniBE Contributor:

Tschumi, Pascal, Mayer, Heike


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 330 Economics
700 Arts > 710 Landscaping & area planning
900 History > 910 Geography & travel




Taylor & Francis




Simon Andreas Künzi

Date Deposited:

30 Sep 2022 15:21

Last Modified:

25 Feb 2024 02:06

Publisher DOI:





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