What is Social Innovation?
As the Director of Business Innovation at The Australian Centre for Social Innovation I can tell you that there are no easy definitions.
An interesting series of articles on this by Dr Andrew Curtis and Tara Anderson. They have a strong bias towards how the government especially in the UK has used this. But I think there are some valid ideas here. Especially this one about Grameen Bank.
Let’s imagine for a moment that Yunus had wanted to apply for funding from NESTA to launch his loan idea. If he had been forced to adapt his idea to fit the criteria required, we may never have seen the birth of microfinance. The beauty and success of the Grameen Bank is that it was completely unprecedented. It was not designed to meet any external requirements.
And that’s exactly the point. The best social innovations in social services are unlikely to be dreamed up through a process of box-ticking or award applications. In 2006, Grameen Bank and its founder Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize for efforts to create economic and social development “from below” — not from within the system.
The risk with government suddenly supporting social innovation and providing some public money to assist the sector is that governments are rarely (if ever) going to be interested in social innovation for the sake of stronger and healthier communities, full stop.
The key for me is that we need more innovation to create social change. What I like about this article though is the need to look at creating disruptive models and some of them will not come from the NFP space.
They end their series with this.
Social innovation and social enterprise is its best when it’s operating on the edges, filling in the gaps and creating new ways of addressing social challenges, not unwittingly supporting the status quo. Politicians won’t change the system. People will.