What is Social Innovation?
‘It is a novel solution to a social problem, that is more effective, efficient, sustainable or just that presents solutions and for which the value created accrues primarily to society as a whole rather than private individuals.’ (Centre for Social Innovation, Stanford Graduate School of Business).
The primary goal is to create social change. It is driven by an extra motive that has shared value, at once economic and social. It can take place in public, private and community sector organisations but the most successful ideas take place in collaboration across these sectors. Key characteristics include knowledge sharing, co-creation, evidence based approaches and citizen engagement. It engages multidisciplinary, tailored and participative empowering approach instead of ‘top down’ approach.
Social Innovation is getting increased attention globally. For example, the EU leading strategy Europe 2020 (aiming for a ‘smart, sustainable and inclusive economy’), sees social innovation as an avenue that can provide ‘new, more efficient answers to meet growing social needs’. The six major social trends identified at EU level that represent huge challenges also provide opportunities for social innovation including trends in: migration and ageing, environment, new communities, poverty, health and well-being and ethical goods and services.
To implement Social Innovation in any of these areas we need to consider:
- Knowledge exchange
- Action planning
- Creation of multi-stakeholder platforms
- Cross-sectoral collaboration
- Development of incubation targeted at Social innovation
- Training in areas such as critical thinking and creative solutions
The concept of change-maker is one that has emerged alongside social innovation thinking. As change makers we need to look at situations from multiple angles in order to find solutions. We need to identify and critically appraise our skills and abilities to become successful change makers. Perseverance, self-confidence, communication, leadership, internal focus of control, empathy, critical thinking have been identified as key attributes. This skill set is central to the conscious and systemic approaches needed for building innovation capacity, where creation of new solutions is done with people, not for them.
The sustainability of any business depends on the society the business is placed in. If we understand the challenges of the society and put improvement of human well being as one of the core values of the business, the path the business takes should always meet the demands of the market while building good reputation, creating trust and being seen as beneficial to the society among potential clients, employees and society as whole.
A note on Terminology:
Social Entrepreneurship – behaviours and attitudes of individuals involved in creating new ventures for social purposes.
Social Enterprises – enterprises for which the social or societal objectives of the common good is the reason for the commercial activity. Profits are mainly reinvested with a view to achieving this social objective. Social enterprises can take numerous forms
Social Economy – a third sector among economies between the private and public sectors. It includes organisations such as cooperatives, nonprofit organizations, social enterprises and charities.
‘It is a novel solution to a social problem, that is more effective, efficient, sustainable or just that presents solutions and for which the value created accrues primarily to society as a whole rather than private individuals.’ (Centre for Social Innovation, Stanford Graduate School of Business). Social innovation can take place in public, private and community/voluntary sector organisations. Often the most fruitful sources of new ideas take place in collaborations across sectors.
Examples of our work in the field of Social Innovation:
Irish Gap Year