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Whatever happened to Social Innovation

06 December 2017

Social Innovation seems to be getting out of fashion. The term is no longer buzzing on global conferences, the research funding is ceasing and one can see policy makers and business people rolling their eyes on the mention of social enterprise, since it might sounds to them like street riots or cost inefficiency.


That seems wrong!


Social innovation is more than entrepreneurship gone social. It reaches out to cultural, educational and indeed societal emancipation, stands for bottom-up movements, governance transparency and solidarity in a productive economy - In other words: social innovation lays the bricks to the pillar stones of the modern, interconnected and self-reliant life we all are wishing for.


It has been around for a while


Since its rise in the 1960’s when NGO’s started taking a stand (or shall we say since early innovators like Benjamin Franklin and Florence Nightingale pointed at the natural link between economy and a decent life), social innovation has disrupted, changed and consolidated lifestyles and ultimately transformed societies. Frugal engineering, volunteer nursing, organic food, co-creation and gig work -to name but a few- are either an integral part of our reality already or are becoming it. They all go back to the social and innovative drivers to participate, share and blend.


Many social innovation topics brought up in the 2000s, when it was the most fashionable, are far from being solved yet. The climate is still changing to the worse, social costs of inequality are rising and hurting, and the world migration continues to cause gaps in solidarity and mobility management. Many other challenges remain.


Keep innovating


Social innovation has therefore still a lot to progress on the topics it has been tackling in the last decades. However, it needs to focus its attention on current issues too in order to stay in the loop of attention. Some relevant questions to address could be:


  • How can redistribution be integrated into policy models and the economy?
  • How can the global tension between direct and representative democracy be turned into a constructive dialogue?
  • How can responsive political ideologies and solidarity be built beyond national borders?
  • How can public services get out of their silo mentality?
  • How can we write a more positive narrative of the new world of work?

Social innovation is supposed to be not only good for society but also enhance society´s capacity to act. If this is still valid, social innovators and policy makers ought to do both: Represent the values behind social innovation beyond the trending phase and constantly update its pertinence.


What are your views on social innovation?


MIGUEL PEROMINGO, Senior Consultant and Writer for Employment, Migration and Cultural Management