ABSTRACT Purpose: Against the backdrop of clear paradoxes and confusion in prevailing innovation policies, the contours of a new innovation paradigm, as elaborated in this paper, are becoming visible and causing social innovation to grow in importance. Originality/gap/relevance/implications: However, innovation research is still lacking sustained and systematic analysis of social innovation, its theories, characteristics, and impacts. The purpose of this paper is to focus on a theoretically sound concept of social innovation as a precondition for an integrated theory of socio-technological innovation in which social innovation is more than an appendage of technological innovation. Key methodological aspects: The paper presents first empirical results of the global research project "SI-DRIVE: Social Innovation - Driving Force of Social Change" and introduces key findings of a global mapping of social innovation initiatives. This quantitative mapping is based upon 1.005 social innovation initiatives. Summary of key results: The mapping underlines the broad range of actors involved in the mapped initiatives and thereby confirms the need for a cross-sectoral concept of social innovation. It reveals a high diversity of social needs and societal challenges addressed by the initiatives as well as a high dependency on networks. The results also show that 90% of the initiatives are scaling. Key considerations/conclusions: Finally, on the basis of these empirical results, a recourse to Gabriel Tarde's social theory allows us to widen a perspective which was narrowed to economic and technological innovations by Schumpeter and after him by the sociology of technology, and to include social innovations in all their diversity.