What is social innovation?

What is social innovation?



When thinking of innovation, we usually think of new technologies developed by companies as engines for their own growth. However, there is more than that to innovation. It doesn’t just help companies grow; it also helps the society prosper.

Social innovation is increasingly recognized around the world. However, many of us are not sure how it happens or why we need social innovation.

What is social innovation?

  • The word “innovation” typically conjures thoughts of science, technology, and progress. But, when paired with the word “social,” it takes on a human element. “Social innovation” becomes the betterment of our existence—progress not forthe sake of prosperity, but for the sake of people.

Social innovation means a new way of doing things, an innovative element in a given context. It represents a break with the usual solutions proposed and provides a creative solution to social and economic problems that cannot be solved by the market or the State. It thereby improves individual and collective well-being.

Social innovations often occur at the edges of systems, or where two or more “siloed” disciplines or sectors meet. For example, the fields of social entrepreneurship and social finance integrate economic, social and environmental outcomes. Innovation also occurs when a solution from one domain is transferred to another.

Social innovation has many definitions, but at its core it supports people and organizations to co-create, learn, adapt and scale more effective solutions to entrenched social problems—making our human and natural systems more adaptive and resilient.


Why social innovation is important

In today’s hyperconnected world, one country’s societal problems can become ours. Nations are facing slow economic growth, financial instability, political turmoil, hunger, poverty, and disease. These are all social issues that must be addressed, one way or the other, and such big problems generate big business opportunities.

Therefore, social innovation take place to bring about positive change by addressing these complex problems at the root. Social innovation is a process, product, or program that profoundly affects the way a given system operates by changing it in a way that reduces the vulnerability of people and the environment in that system, with the goal of improving the well-being of people and communities.

As a result of positive social innovation, many elements of a system become more resilient, improving their ability to cope with future challenges.

Moreover, Social innovation is helping to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems with new solutions such as fair trade, distance learning, mobile money transfer, restorative justice, and zero-carbon housing. In the process of creating solutions, it is also profoundly changing beliefs, basic practices, resources, and social power structures. Social innovation provides a unique opportunity to step back from a narrow way of thinking about social enterprises, business engagement, and to recognize instead the interconnectedness of various factors and stakeholders.


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