The concept of social innovation has grown in popularity in policy circles as a remedy both to government and market failure. We can usefully define social innovation as a new approach to meeting social needs by the empowerment of individuals through collaborative actions of governments, private enterprises, and civil society actors. The emergence of this new approach is best explained as a process of translation, by which we mean the movement of concepts across first sectoral and then national boundaries. In this process, imported elements are combined with existing ones to create new policy instruments. We first discuss the development of the social innovation approach through the translation of policy elements from the economic to the social sector. We then illustrate the further translation of policy elements across national borders through two Turkish examples of the use of smart cards to deliver social benefits.