The Growing Shift Towards Social Innovation

The Growing Shift Towards Social InnovationOn 16 and 17 March 2011, Social Innovation Europe will be launched in Brussels. Funded by the European Commission, Social Innovation Europe will create a dynamic, entrepreneurial and innovative new Europe with the intent for Europe to embrace the broader concepts within innovation and set an example globally for this social movement.

The aim is by 2014, Social Innovation Europe will have become the meeting place – virtual and real – for social innovators, entrepreneurs, non-profit organizations, policy makers and anyone else who is inspired by social innovation in Europe. This can provide the opportunity for social innovation – for so long on the margins – to take its place alongside business innovation at the center of the economic stage.

Social Innovation Europe

The intent will cover the following:

  • Connect projects and people who can share experiences and learn from each other;
  • Develop an easily accessible resource bank – so you can find about other projects, organisations and ways of working;
  • Develop a resource bank of up to date policies at local and national levels and provide information on funding opportunities;
  • Facilitate new relationships between civil society, governments, public sector institutions and relevant private sector bodies
  • Develop concrete recommendations in financing and in up scaling/mainstreaming of social innovation in Europe

Social Innovation will become a large topic both in Europe & the USA

I’d like to provide here a useful set of references to read into social innovation by introducing the Young Foundation. The Young Foundation brings together insights, innovation and entrepreneurship to meet social needs and has been focusing specifically on the UK. Its CEO, Geoff Mulgan, will be leading and moderating this launch event in Brussels on 16th & 17th March 2011.

Three essential reads that will really advance your understanding.

  1. Danger & Opportunity – a paper by Robyn Murray putting forward the argument for the rise of the social economy and the fact we are witnessing the emergence of a new kind of economy that will have profound implications for us all. The report link is here.
  2. The Open Book of Social Innovation – written by Robyn Murray, Julie Caulier-Grice and Geoff Mulgan, released in March 2010 and within this It describes the methods and tools for innovation being used across the world and across the different sectors – the public and private sectors, civil society and the household – and in the overlapping fields of the social economy, social entrepreneurship and social enterprise. This is a terrific collaborative effort and an excellent read. The report link is here.
  3. This is European Social Innovation – written again in a collaborative effort it was instigated and coordinated by the Social Innovation eXchange (SIX) at the Young Foundation, Euclid Network, and the Social Innovation Park, Bilbao. This report identifies and highlights some of the most promising innovative initiatives across Europe. The ten selected projects were identified because of their potential for impact, and relevance to the issues facing Europe. The report link is here.

SIX – Social Innovation eXchange (

This is the global meeting place for the social innovation community. SIX is a global community of over 1000 individuals and organizations – including small NGOs and global firms, public agencies and academics – committed to promoting social innovation and growing the capacity of the field. Our aim is to improve the methods with which our societies find better solutions to challenges such as ageing, climate change, inequality and healthcare.

SIX was designed to fill a gap. There are some existing networks of social innovators – both groups and individuals – in particular sectors (e.g. health, environment, cities), particular fields (e.g. social entrepreneurship, policy, design), and particular countries and regions. SIX does not aim to compete with, or supplant, any of these initiatives, but rather intends to link them together to promote learning and collaboration across sectors, fields and countries.

The essentials of social innovation will be in resolving the challenges we all face.

About Social Innovation

Social innovation is the process of designing, developing and growing new ideas that work to meet pressing unmet needs. The term is a relatively new one, but there is a long history of social innovators and examples of social innovation – from kindergartens to hospices, and from the cooperative movement to microfinance.

The past thirty years in particular has seen a remarkable growth of new social ventures in both the developed and developing worlds. Sometimes referred to as the Third sector, they in fact operate across many sectors, from parts of the public sector, to the collaborative ‘household economy’ and the private market. (from the SIX website)

Definitions of Social Innovation

SIX define social innovation as the development and implementation of new ideas (products, services and models) to meet social needs. This broad definition encompasses the innovations associated with fields as diverse as fair trade, distance learning, hospices, urban farming, waste reduction and restorative justice. Social innovation can come from individuals, groups and associations, the non-profit sector, the market and the state. The basic distinction between social and other innovations is that production is driven by social values as a primary imperative rather than private financial appropriation.

I do urge you to spend some time to investigate and become increasingly involved.

We need to address some of the most intractable problems facing our society. There are thousands of promising initiatives but one of the big problems being faced is few of these have grown in scale. Also the support needed to turn these good ideas into big impactful ones that do begin to resolve some of those innovation challenges are the real frontier to master. We need to focus on social resolution. Lets trust the kick off meeting for Social Innovation Europe goes well and produces some real momentum.

Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing

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Paul HobcraftPaul Hobcraft runs Agility Innovation, an advisory business that stimulates sound innovation practice, researches topics that relate to innovation for the future, as well as aligning innovation to organizations core capabilities.

Paul Hobcraft

Paul Hobcraft is recognized for his consistency to champion and informs on innovation. He focuses on building innovation capacity, competencies, and capabilities and promotes innovation in informative, creative and knowledgeable ways, piecing together the broader understanding of innovation. Paul continually constructs a series of novel and relevant frameworks to help advance this innovation understanding and writes mainly through his posting site of where he regularly publishes his thinking and research based on solutions that underpin his advisory, coaching and consulting work at




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