UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose


Movements with missions make markets

Estonia's digital transformation: Mission mystique and the hiding hand

6 August 2018

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UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP) Working Paper Series: IIPP WP 2018-07


  • Charles Leadbeater | Visiting Professor, UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose


Leadbeater, C. (2018). ‘Movements with missions make markets’. UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose Working Paper Series (IIPP WP 2018-07). https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/public-purpose/wp2018-07


Innovation policy makers are increasingly interested in mission-driven innovation as a way to maximise the beneficial social impact of innovation on issues that matter to citizens such as ageing, climate change and quality of life in cities. This paper argues that social movements are vital to the understanding and success of mission-driven innovation. Drawing on the case study of the development of the contraceptive pill it argues that movements of different kinds play four main roles in mission-driven innovation: helping to contest and shape a mission, to make it a political and social priority; organising knowledge and ideas, for example in scientific and technological communities which grow as the mission develops; preparing the demand side of innovation so people aspire to and want the solution which the innovation provides; connecting people across the boundaries of public and private, academia and business, activists and investors to bring about the system-wide change often needed for mission-driven innovation to be successful in addressing grand challenges. The paper argues that movements with missions can make markets, change norms and reform systems. As mission-driven innovation develops, so policy-makers will have to become accustomed to dealing with the power and the limitations of movements.