July 22, 2013 Editor 0
The attempt to impact the narrative of everyday life, is by definition; social innovation.
Social innovation refers to new strategies, concepts, ideas and organizations that meet social needs of all kinds – from working conditions and education to community development and health – and that extend and strengthen civil society.
Over the years, the term has developed several overlapping meanings. It can be used to refer to social processes of innovation, such as open source methods and techniques. Alternatively it refers to innovations which have a social purpose – like microcredit or distance learning. The concept can also be related to social entrepreneurship (entrepreneurship isn’t always or even usually innovative, but it can be a means ofinnovation) and it also overlaps with innovation in public policy and governance. Social innovation can take place within government, within companies, or within the nonprofit sector (also known as the third sector), but is increasingly seen to happen most effectively in the space between the three sectors. Recent research has focused on the different types of platforms needed to facilitate such cross-sector collaborative social innovation.
Social innovation was discussed in the writings of figures such as Peter Drucker and Michael Young (founder of the Open University and dozens of other organizations) in the 1960s.. It also appeared in the work of French writers in the 1970s, for example Pierre Rosanvallon, Jacques Fournier, and Jacques Attali . However, the themes and concepts in social innovation have existed long before that. Benjamin Franklin, for example, talked about social innovation in terms of small modifications within the social organisation of communities that could help to solve everyday problems. Many radical 19th century reformers like Robert Owen, founder of the cooperative movement, promoted innovation in the social field and all of the great sociologists including Karl Marx, Max Weber and Émile Durkheim focused much of their attention to broader processes of social change. However, more detailed theories of social innovation only became prominent in the 20th century. Joseph Schumpeter, for example, addressed the process of innovation more directly with his theories of creative destruction and his definition of entrepreneurs as people who combined existing elements in new ways. In the 1980s and after, writers on technological change increasingly addressed the importance of social factors in affecting technology diffusion.
The idea of social innovation has become much more prominent with ongoing research, blogs and websites (such as the social innovation exchange) , and a proliferation of organisations working on the boundaries of research and practical action. Several currents have converged in this area, including:
- new thinking about innovation in public services, pioneered particularly in some of the Scandinavian and Asian countries. Governments are increasingly recognising that innovation isn’t just about hardware: it is just as much about healthcare, schooling and democracy.
- growing interest in social entrepreneurship.
- business, which is increasingly interested in innovation in services.
- new methods of innovation inspired by the open source field.
- linking social innovation to theory and research in complex adaptive systems to understand its dynamics.
- collaborative approaches to social innovation, particularly in the public sector.
A recent overview of the field highlighted the growing interest of public policy makers in supporting social innovation in these different sectors, notably in the UK, Australia, China and Denmark. A focus of much recent work has been on how innovations spread and on what makes some localities particularly innovative.
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