Much of the literature dealing with creativity and innovation as triggers for development seems to neglect other dimensions of urban development beyond the market economy. This is particularly challenging in places that face severe qualification problems such as Oporto City‐Region, where an important share of the population do not belong to the so‐called ‘creative class’ and have limited prospects of benefiting from urban development based on creativity and innovation. Nonetheless, alternative approaches to creativity and innovation have been developed in the last decade. Social innovation is one of these approaches. Nevertheless, it too faces acute problems related to the dissemination of new ideas beyond their field of origin. By analysing two socially innovative programmes in the education sector that are underway in the Oporto City‐Region, this article aims to explore the prospects for disseminating social innovation through urban policy.