In recent years, social innovation has been gaining more attention, not only in the scholarly literature and in public discourse but in rural development practice as well. An important reason for this is the greater involvement of civil society in this form of innovation. In this paper, building on definitions of social innovation found in the literature, we focus on the actual processes of social innovation in rural Hungary. The hypothesis behind our research was that a better understanding of how social innovation takes place in practice could increase its presence and efficiency in rural development. To explore these issues, we analysed four different cases of social innovation situated in rural Hungary. Our research shows that, despite common patterns, social innovation is highly dependent on its actual context and on the individual, the agentic engine, who initiates and carries out the innovation. For the capitalisation and the long-term sustainability of an innovative development project the institutionalisation of social networks gathering around it seems to be another crucial factor. Thus, creating an appropriate frame to drive the process all the way from the innovative idea through product development to institutionalisation, possibly in the form of a social enterprise, can be considered an essential circumstance for successful social innovation.