Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Women's Studies and Feminist Research


Dr. Bipasha Baruah


Social innovation is not new, but it is increasingly being called on to provide solutions to some of the world’s most pressing social and economic problems. Despite awareness about its importance, research in the field of social innovation is often vague, and there are competing definitions and understandings of the concept. There is also very little research that attempts to connect the field of social innovation with the fields of gender studies, women’s studies, feminist research, or men and masculinity studies. This dissertation applies a gender lens to the concept of social innovation. In doing so, it aims to develop the foundations for future research at the intersection of social innovation and gender equality. To conduct this research, I sought an affiliation with the MATCH International Women’s Fund, a Canadian organization that provides grants to support women’s social innovations in the Global South. This is a qualitative exploratory study in which I used peer-reviewed academic research as well as practitioner tools and knowledge from a range of sectors and disciplines. These include the results of 25 in-depth interviews with people engaged in social innovation or a related field, data from Twitter Canada, and a fellowship experience at Canada’s leading innovation hub, MaRS Discovery District. My research demonstrates the need for gender sensitivity and analysis in the field of social innovation. I argue that social innovation will not achieve its full potential if it does not understand how to respond to existing gender hierarchies all over the world. Innovation is about bringing together different perspectives; when we leave an analysis of gender out, we miss out on a lot. A gender analysis is not as simple as including more women in innovation; it is also about how innovation is interpreted and understood.