Provoking innovation through stories of social entrepreneurship

“The truth about stories is that that’s all we are…”

―  Thomas King, The Truth About Stories (2003)

Case study created for JUMP-Math. Photo via Trico Foundation

Case study created for JUMP-Math. Photo via Trico Foundation

In 2015, the Trico Charitable Foundation published four extensive case studies on the 2013 Social EnterPrize winners. Each case study was developed in partnership with the winning social enterprise and a post-secondary institution, converging the rigor of frontline experiential learning with the rigor of a critical academic lens.

The result? “A series of social entrepreneurship case studies that, in terms of the breadth of the organizations studied and the depth of the analysis, is the first of its kind in Canada” (Trico Charitable Foundation, April 2015). Together, each social enterprise and academic team revealed and codified key insights, challenges and lessons from these four thriving social enterprises.

“Storytelling is one of the most powerful forces in humanity. As a private foundation, we have learned that our work is better when we tell stories and when we listen to them.”

― Trico Charitable Foundation, April 2015

It is clear that an appreciation of the power of stories spurred Trico’s interest in developing the case studies. Why are stories so powerful? An audacious question, but one that provokes serious consideration of the role of stories in our lives.

In the context of social innovation, the defining stories we tell each day reveal our core beliefs and the conditioning beliefs of our broader social system.They tell us something about what we value, who we value, and what purpose we believe our systems (and selves) exist to serve.

Photo via Trico Foundation

TurnAround Couriers. Photo via Trico Foundation

In sharing – in depth – the story of the four Social EnterPrize winners, Trico Charitable Foundation contributed to a narrative that values business as more than a vehicle for profit maximization. ‘Social entrepreneurship’ is a story of sustainable social processes leveraging market solutions to serve social purpose. It advances another, broader story about our economic system, one where the economy thrives as products, services, and experiences put the best of our capital (financial, human, knowledge) sustainably to work producing (and reproducing) positive social and ecological outcomes.

The story of a new economy

Each case study offers a window into how this new story is taking root and reshaping economic life. Each case exemplifies business models succeeding not in spite of their social process and purpose, but because of it. And, to explain this success, each case brings to light that the triple bottom line of social enterprise (or social purpose business) is more than people, planet and profit – it is also process, purpose and outcome.

Cover of Citizen-Led Innovation for a New Economy. Photo via Fernwood Publishing

Cover of Citizen-Led Innovation for a New Economy. Photo via Fernwood Publishing

This is the triumvirate of a new economy where, similar to the case studies in the recently released book Citizen-led Innovation for a New Economy, “organized citizens are forging innovation, prying open cracks in the prevailing economic system and seizing opportunities to redirect economic life” (From the book blurb - Purchase the book here or the PDF summaries of the cases).

Stories describe where we come from and why we exist. They define ‘the good life,’ our expected roles in the society or how we should relate to each other. Stories tell us what our essence is: good or evil or somewhere in between; independent or interdependent; fundamentally threatened or enriched by difference. Above all, stories reflect and influence our perception of the world and, in doing so, our actions.

“A fundamental sociological premise is Thomas theorem: what is perceived as real is real in its consequences. We would add: how we think about and understand the world frames our actions. Indeed, we can be even more basic: whether we think about things matter.”

Frances Westley, Brenda Zimmerman, Michael Patton, Getting to Maybe: How the World Is Changed (2006)

embers-300x123

Each Social EnterPrize winner understood that “whether we think about things matters.” Whether we think about the potential of low-income folks living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (EMBERS); the common need for safety and comfort by travellers, students, women in crisis, families in transition or with medical issues, seniors and refugees (YWCA Hotel/Residence); the untapped work ethic of job-ready, at-risk youth (TurnAround Couriers); or the pedagogical opportunity to empower every student to be a math prodigy (JUMP), it is actually noticing and thinking about these things that shapes our understanding of the world, frames our actions and, through our actions, reimagines our communities.

How do we follow in these footsteps? Thankfully, the case studies not only exemplify how these social entrepreneurs advanced a different perception of the world – and in doing so, ignited cascading opportunities – each also reveals how that acute perception translated into tangible insights, challenges, solutions and outcomes. They lend evidence and advice to others seeking to leverage a new worldview and market opportunity to achieve sustainable, measurable social and ecological outcomes.

The inside lobby of the YWCA-Hotel in Vancouver. Photo via Trico Foundation.

The inside lobby of the YWCA-Hotel in Vancouver. Photo via Trico Foundation.

Final takeaway

The ability to unlock market solutions that successfully redeploy capital to achieve transformational social and ecological impact often demands challenging the prevailing beliefs of our day. It butts up against the way so many people currently see or understand the world. The Social EnterPrize case studies remind us to know intimately the story we are telling through our actions and through our words…by whom, about whom, for whom, to what end. This story is our compass. As are these case studies which, with practical and inspirational insight, reveal how process and purpose can converge to power a new economy for social and ecological impact.

The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you can alter, even by a millimeter, the way people look at reality, then you can change the world

—     James Baldwin

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Philanthropic foundations and social innovation: How do we accelerate our learning?

SiG Note: This article was originally published on Social Innovation Exchange (SIX) on January 24, 2016. It has been cross-posted with permission from the author.

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”  Albert Einstein

The last quarter century has seen significant changes in the world of foundation philanthropy. New pools of earned wealth (think Jeff SkollBill Gates or Skype founder Niklas Zennström) have accelerated traditional philanthropy’s shift from responsive grantmaking towards experiments with different forms and degrees of more proactive, targeted and strategic or collaborative philanthropy. Some of these changes have included the adoption and experimentation with the mindset, tools and methodologies of social innovation.

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center in Seattle via The Society for Experiential Graphic Design

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center in Seattle. Photo via The Society for Experiential Graphic Design

To further and advance this adoption, social innovation grantmakers from three continents are being convened for the first time ever.

The goal is to share and explore what they and their peers are learning about social innovation philanthropy. This new “Funders Node,” hosted by Social Innovation Exchange (SIX), has the following goals:

  • Address the lack of shared knowledge among global organizations supporting and deploying social innovation;
  • Help answer vexing questions whose tentative answers could unlock transformational collaborations and high impact social innovation;
  • Increase funding for systemic change and social innovation while improving its likelihood of success. I began my career as a grantmaker four decades ago. Experience has taught me the truth of the adage: “it’s easy to give money away.”  On the other hand, it is incredibly hard for a funder to achieve major impact. Successful social innovation philanthropy is a tough occupation.
Funders Node hosted by the Rockefeller Foundation in New York City

SIX’s Funders Node hosted in the Rockefeller Foundation Facilities in New York City. Photo via Tim Draimin

Responsible foundations increasingly recognize their social change covenant to be a vital part of the R&D system for solutions to our world’s most complex challenges. But, by definition, these solutions are ill-understood. This means that it is an emergent and long term process to build new, generative pathways and social innovations spawning indispensable public goods (like a low carbon economy, global social equity, and purposeful meaning in daily life).

Funders grapple with their support role enabling globally-significant social innovations. Are there minimum specifications high impact social innovations depend on?

Seven topics are increasingly visible:

1. COLLABORATION & CO-CREATION

How does transformational collaboration among funders happen? How do collaborative competencies support genuine co-creation involving frontline-practitioner-innovators, citizen beneficiaries, funders, business and governments?

2. SYSTEM CHANGE

How are social innovations developed, curated, and aligned towards system change?

3. COMMUNICATIONS & CULTURE

An innovation’s success can be foiled by weak communications. How does a communications strategy employ a meaningful narrative? Similarly, how are successful innovations lifted up by — and embedded in — many diverse cultures and values. What intentional steps can be taken to advance a positive cultural embrace?

4. POLITICS OF CHANGE

How do social innovators manage the politics of social change, conceiving social innovations in a jujitsu manoeuvre that guilefully co-opts the power of opponents at the same time as enfranchising groups and peoples historically excluded;

5. ETHICAL VALUES & SHADOW SIDE

How are innovations both grounded in ethics and  values, as well as probed and tested to anticipate and manage the shadow side, their inevitable and unanticipated negative outcomes?

6. INNOVATION PIPELINES

How are integrated innovation system pipelines built in order to support all parts of the life-cycle of necessary social innovations? How are early stage components nurtured in ways that empower contributions by passionate amateurs who are embedded in community and reflect authentic local needs? How is scaling enabled? How can philanthropic capital beyond grants leverage other forms of capital?

7. LEARNING SYSTEM

How do we build deep, agile learning platforms of critical friends?

These “min specs” are difficult to embrace and then successfully execute. Coupled with the nature of complex challenges, this means risks are an occupational hazard.

The bottom line is that success for social innovation funders flows from building, participating in and being guided by a high quality peer learning system.

Funders Node participants from three continents joined together in New York City via Tim Draimin

Funders Node participants from three continents joined together in New York City. Photo via Tim Draimin

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Shooting for the Moon: How can we make Social Missions as inspiring as Space Missions?

SiG Note: This article was originally published on Medium on January 21, 2016. It has been cross-posted with permission from the author.

In the last couple of months, the world has seen the successful SpaceX ORBCOMM-2 launch and landing, heard US Vice President Joe Biden’s ‘moonshot to cure cancer’, and witnessed the unsuccessful SpaceX attempt to land first stage of the JASON-3 rocket on a drone ship.

Now, I haven’t done a thorough analysis, but a quick check on Twitter shows that Joe Biden’s cure for cancer moonshot announcement received 1,792 retweets and 4,307 favourites while Elon Musk’s successful landing announcement received 5,494 retweets and a whopping 11,100 favourites. I’d argue that far more people are impacted by cancer than they are about the future of space exploration. So this delta is intriguing for me, and raises a variety of questions.

How might social moonshots be as inspiring and compelling as, well, actual moonshots? What if we followed social missions as closely as space missions? What if we embraced social mission failures as learnings, in the same way as we did the recent unsuccessful drone ship landing?

As a trained aerospace engineer, having worked in the field for a few years and now working on things that help us do good better, I’m intrigued by these questions. There is such excitement, inspiration, and sense of possibility during a space mission launch. So where’s the wonder during a social mission launch?

I believe social missions can be as compelling and as inspiring for the future as space missions. For anyone who’s passionate about solving the world’s toughest problems, there are a number of course corrections (see what I did there) that we must consider for the future of social impact to be an exciting and inspiring one. Here are 10 ways that come to mind:

1. The narrative can’t be one of scarcity. 

People don’t say space exploration is needed because Earth has a scarcity problem or it needs fixing. This is almost never the narrative. It’s always been about extending human potential and building human capability. However, the narrative in the social impact space falls under “not having enough X” or “fixing Y.” Entire campaigns are built and run on this narrative.

The take-away: The scarcity narrative isn’t an inspiring one.

2. It’s about high-risk and high-value. 

There is a recognition of the quantum of investment and risk that’s needed to build a vehicle that can reach outer space. There is no room for ‘drip funding.’ One doesn’t hear, “Let’s commit to fins this year, perhaps guidance system next year, and maybe nose cone the year after. And to qualify for year 2, submit a report on how the fins are doing.”

The take-away: It’s easy to get distracted by drip funding but this often leads us to mediocre and piecemeal, not high-value solutions.

3. Find a sustained energy source. 

A sustained energy source is required for long space missions. Flying by Pluto takes time. In fact, New Horizons launched in 2006 and it only approached Pluto in mid-2015 — almost 10 years later. So, the spacecraft must be designed with the ‘right-sized’ energy source that can deliver on the mission as well as mild course-corrects, and not with a source that can only get it half-way. Spacecraft are built to mission and ambition specs.

The take-away: Building to ambition specs is inspiring.

4. Celebrate escape velocity (output), not securing the parts (input).

Reaching escape velocity (minimum speed for a spacecraft to break free from gravitational pull of Earth) is everything in a launch. This is celebrated by everyone. However, in social change, there exists a strange practice of, to use a food analogy, congratulating the chef for getting the ingredients. This is not inspiring.

The take-away: Let’s be mindful of celebrating inputs and be present to celebrate reaching escape velocity.

5. Jettison items that no longer add value. 

In space missions, the payload is exactly what is required (weight is everything) and in cases where redundancy is needed, extra equipment is worked in. When something is no longer relevant, it is shut down or jettisoned. Obsolescence is part of the design of a mission. Space missions cannot afford to service obsolete items or items that no longer add value as it might jeopardize the mission. However, more often than not, social programs and services are built with a sense of permanence in mind.

The take-away: We must design-in active obsolescence management such that programs and services stay relevant and inspiring.

6. Share the mission in real-time. 

Major space launches have been broadcasting live ever since live broadcasts were possible on TV and then on the internet. Today, anybody from anywhere in the world (this is key) can go to NASA’s website to get updates on any active missions. Launches, delays, blow ups, lost communications — you can see it all. In social change work, much of real-time progress is shielded, progress is typically shared in a closed-loop fashion with funders or donors. We have become accustomed to shield experiments, failures or delays from the public.

The take-away: When we share by default, we inspire.

7. Build with foresight. 

SpaceX could easily make a compelling business case just launching satellites — and potentially accelerate reaching profitability. Instead, they have decided that this isn’t enough. They bring a high degree of foresight to their work. SpaceX doesn’t just want to launch satellites the way we know how to do it today, but set the pace and build for how space missions might happen 25 years from now.

The take-away: If we build for how we want social programs 25 years from now, we would inspire millions.

8. Use natural forces as a slingshot. 

Gravity is our friend but can also be a nightmare. Once we reach Earth’s escape velocity however, gravity can be amazing and be used to our advantage — to boost the spacecraft farther and save energy. In space missions, everything (even natural forces) are viewed as assets. With an open mind, and a bit of creativity, we can look beyond classic forms of assets for social change. We could flip something that might appear to be a nightmare in one context but could act as a ‘gravity boost’ in another to advance the mission.

The take-away: Assets are everywhere in social missions.

9. Design to dock with a larger system. 

Interoperability is critical in space missions. Europeans, Russians, Canadians, Japanese and Americans all contribute components to the International Space Station. The parts are designed a bit like LEGO pieces — they are designed to “dock or connect” with one another. This level of interoperability makes platforms like the Space Station possible. Imagine organizations in different sectors working toward a shared social change ambition designed projects, programs or interventions with interoperability as a core function…we might have shared knowledge, shared assets, and shared human capital. We might even look at liabilities, governance, empathy, and risks in a shared way.

The take-away: Interoperability levels the playing field, gives us all peripheral vision, and allows us to bring our best ‘LEGO pieces’ to solving complex problems.

10. Steward ambition. 

People might come and go but leadership around an ambition stays. It is rare that a long-term space mission, like New Horizons gets unmonitored or falls to the bottom of the ambition stack upon change in people. Nothing is protected 100% of course, as there are always economical, political, and other factors at play. However, there is a recognition that space missions require a sustained level of ‘ambition stewardship’ by a variety of actors, and that a “start, stop, start” approach causes disruptions that ultimately causes setbacks to the mission.

The take-away: What if we moved beyond the 1 year, 2 year or 3 year support approach in social change and curated ambition commitments that last 10 or 15 years? This is inspiring.

This note is a thesis. My intention is to push us to disrupt ourselves, and to provoke a more nuanced way of thinking about our practice of generating social change. I hope you can use this to reflect on how you might make your social moonshot more inspiring, engaging, and compelling.

Author’s note: Thanks to Jason Pearman.
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Two tales of a city: converging realities of culture in Toronto

Before the real city could be seen it had to be imagined, the way rumours and tall tales were a kind of charting – Michael Ondaatje, In the Skin of the Lion

How do we imagine this city?
What are the rumours and tall tales charting…?

 

Tale One: The Soho Effect

Artists bring vibrancy, cohesion and activity into our neighborhoods – Yorkville (1960s); West Queen West (1990s); Regent Park (2000s). Real estate prices go up. Artists – often renters – get priced out, along with other low-income residents. Artists drive the yuppification of our communities, inspiring demonic growth and displacement, the hapless victims of their own success. We are more shallow, disconnected, and cold for the loss.

 Here’s where the wrecking crew tore out the heart of the ward
No street signs remind you that a neighborhood died here before 
But things are working out well
Don’t believe what you see on the streets
No threadbare armies of men broken and dead on their feet 
No more bending your back to the weight of the world
No more sorrows, no setbacks, and no more diving for pearls in the ditches and drains
All our history’s remade and no memory remains of us now
- “History Remade” by The FemBots (2005)

“Evolution of Graffiti and Revolt” by EGR

“Evolution of Graffiti and Revolt” by EGR

Tale Two: Artistic Antidote

Artists are the antidotes to the homogenization of place. We have the knowledge and practice to leverage the power of the arts to both help artists and inclusively build the city. We can leverage ‘growth’ – the dynamism of a growing city – to counteract the displacement of artists and low-income Torontonians. We can not only creatively ‘make place,’ we can creatively keep what artists and neighbours have already made, through a combination of tenacity, collaboration and strange bedfellows, charting a real city imagined over time through deep connection and relationships.

Talking about a new way
Talking about changes and names
Talking about building the land of our dreams
His tightrope’s gotta learn how to bend
We’re makin’ new plans
We’re gonna start it again

(Rise up rise up) Oh rise and show your power

(Rise up)
Everybody
Time for you and me
- “Rise Up” by The Parachute Club (1983)

ᐱᓕᕆᖃᑎᒋᓐᓂᖅ - Piliriqatigiingniq Mural Project (Follow on Instagram @thepasystem)

ᐱᓕᕆᖃᑎᒋᓐᓂᖅ – Piliriqatigiingniq Mural Project (Follow on Instagram @thepasystem)

On November 26th, Tim Jones, CEO of Artscape, shared both of these tales of Toronto during his MaRS Global Leadership and SiG Inspiring Action for Social Impact talk.

The first tale is a story that happens to us. The power to shape the city lies with amorphous forces of real estate, gentrification, homogeneity and private profit. The city grows itself mysteriously around us, burying the sincerity of neighourhoods with ever-rising towers of glass and concrete, enriched by the cultural roots that others – now displaced – nurtured.

The second is a story that we co-author, where the tools of the arts empower us to be savvy, thoughtful brokers of the value that rich artistic communities create; we know, appreciate and foresee the value of deep, cohesive place-based culture and leverage it to creatively, deliberately and inclusively ‘keep place’ as the dynamism of city-building introduces new energy, offers, interests and investments into neighborhoods.

Both tales are true. Because these stories not only reflect what is happening, they actively generate and construct reality by shaping what we believe to be true and therefore, how we act in response.

Through the experiences of Artscape, a broker in the manner of the second tale, we learn about practical, actionable approaches and prototypes to inch away from lamenting the Soho Effect to embracing and reclaiming the artistic antidote.

While there is nothing simple about the Artscape model, in its simplest form it honours artists’ natural tendencies – to cluster, to collaborate, to invest locally and in each other, and to engage as changemakers – as a critical city-building asset and community development force.

It stands to reason that when a critical mass of people come together in a neighbourhood, everyone is drawn to this, creating a strong, powerful push for residential development – Tim Jones (in presentation)

This powerful push for residential development that follows where artists thrive is the carrot for development deals to accommodate artists, make space for low-income residents and accommodate urban growth at the same time.

In other words, it is an opportunity to innovate urban growth that Artscape first began playing with in the 1990s. Their innovation: work with the city, community members, and developers together to manifest prototypes of creative place-keeping into public-private development deals. How? By taking advantage of a little extra density, inclusive zoning and a new tale about the imperative role of cultural value-creators –artists – to ensure they and other low-income community members remain in community.

You can build all kinds of social capital and social infrastructure, because in part together we are creating a multibillion-dollar market for residential development – Tim Jones (in presentation)

If we understand how culture creates value for urban development (and if we know that the value is predictable, as it has been throughout Toronto), we can shift from advocating for creative place-making as an endangered need to deliberately and effectively appreciating culture as a critical lever for creative place-keeping – a fundamental case for more community and artistic ownership in public-private development deals.

Tim calls this engaging in culture as a form of “urban acupuncture” – engaging in small- scale, neighbourhood-level innovation to have a city-wide (city-building) impact.

There can be healing in cities by stimulating ‘nerves’ (creative, original expression) and ‘releasing pressure’ (through unusual partnership or collaboration) to create transformation…charting a new reality where self-interest compels policymakers, developers, community activists and artists to put culture at the heart of city building.

Let the beat of the drums harmonize with the beat of your soul
And let it travel miles.
Even if you are spiritually drained as you dance, as you dance, just smile.
Smile until you forget sadness and laugh at anger.
Until you can look into the eyes of anyone as a future brother
And not a stranger.
To invest in relationships you don’t need to be a banker.
- “Spectrum of Hope” by Mustafa Ahmed

Art – music, poetry, installations, painting, craft, writing – is “the quickest and easiest way to get back to something that makes you feel tied to where you are, and who’s around you, and who came before you, what they were doing” (Philip Churchill, The Once). It is how we imagine the city, how we engage in it, understand it and connect to a through-line of histories woven into this place.

Converge the realities.
Ice, wind, pain
Love, sun and rain.
Converge the realities.
Past, present and future.
- “Converge the Realities” by Charmie Deller

Watch Tim’s Talk: Culture as Urban Acupuncture (Full Video)

MaRS Global Leadership: Culture as Urban Acupuncture from MaRS Discovery District on Vimeo.

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Learning from our past; innovating for a stronger future

Understanding how and where change has happened in our past, can provide an innovator with important learning for designing and introducing a new idea today. It also honours and celebrates those ideas that make our lands and our systems more positively resilient.

The History of Social Change is a multimedia project of SEE Change Magazine profiling social change movements in Canadian history – and their key players – that have shaped who we are as Canadians today e.g. Suffrage, Marriage Equality, Cooperatives, Environment, Social Economy, Labour etc. With a focus on the 20th century, each profile will offer an in-depth look at the movement’s origins, its activists, challenges, victories and its status today.

As publisher and editor-in-chief of SEE Change Magazine, Elisa Birnbaum explains: “Social change is not an easy process. It takes effort, stubbornness and the ability to persevere in spite of all obstacles and opposition. Once achieved, social change and any newfound rights and freedoms should never be taken for granted, yet they often are. When that happens, we not only lose our sense of who we are, we lose sight of how we got here, which makes looking forward that much more challenging.”

And so Elisa set about interviewing and developing profiles with people who have changed Canada for the better. There’s dozens of inspiring stories on their site and SiG is happy to amplify their messages. It’s the kind of project we love. Elisa also took the time to chat with SiG National Executive Director, Tim Draimin about where his passion for social change began and what social innovation is all about.

Spend some time trekking through these stories and let Elisa know what you think. I’m sure she would agree that it’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s a significant contribution to honouring our history. Importantly The History of Social Change project provides additional information and written history to give the interviews due context.

Leaving the last words to the producer herself: “It is my hope that this project will offer a valuable examination of the diversity of issues, people and social causes that define our country, remind us of the values we hold dear, celebrate the successes and illuminate the steps we must take next.”

For further stories of social change, visit our profile page as well.

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Final Storify for #IIS15 Thank you!

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Honouring Justice Murray Sinclair at the Indigenous Innovation Summit

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Day 2: Indigenous Innovation Summit Storify capture

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Storify from the Opening Reception of the Indigenous Innovation Summit

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Corporate Social Innovation: a new business value driver

Editor’s Note: This blog appeared first on LinkedIn, November14. It is republished with permission by the author, Coro Strandberg.

Around the world there is a growing consensus that a company’s social role goes beyond meeting legal requirements, complying with ethical standards, creating jobs and paying taxes. Increasingly consumers believe that companies and brands must actively lead social change. And with the recent adoption of the Global Goals, the 193 members of the UN have made clear that the vision of a sustainable world requires everyone to do their part: governments, businesses and individuals. In response to people’s changing expectations, the world’s most innovative companies are building social value right into their core business strategies, not only to address poverty and other problems in their communities, but also to improve workplace relations, gain market advantages and grow profits faster. In my last social post, I explained how transformational companies are supporting social enterprises through innovative buying strategies to diversify their supply chains, unlock creativity and connect more closely with their customers. In this post, I focus on the importance of Social Innovation, the most transformative of the four core corporate strategies that I explore in detail in my Social Value Business Guide.

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 10.41.32 AMThe tool for transformational and social purpose companies to foster commercial and societal success

The business community has the unique insights, expertise and resources needed to create game-changing solutions for more inclusive and humane societies. They do so through a “social innovation” process that involves doing business in ways that create business and social value. Social innovation is when companies improve conditions and profits by applying a social lens to their business models, products, services, processes or relationships. It is a new approach to value creation in which firms bring their unique set of corporate assets (such as their entrepreneurial skills, business acumen, resources and ability to scale) to create solutions to complex social issues, linking the firm’s success with societal success. In tandem with social outcomes, these companies create new customer value propositions that their competitors cannot see, giving them a competitive advantage that reduces costs and increases revenues and profits. Some companies go even further on this continuum and become a social purpose company, coupling their growth with a commensurate increase in social good.

The challenge and opportunity for companies is to find social concerns that intersect with their core business functions and create collaborative partnerships with other companies, governments and like-minded civil society organizations in order to harness each party’s unique strengths and address issues together. It involves pivoting business competencies to test, prototype and scale new business ventures that generate social value for communities and the broader society such as reducing poverty, homelessness, underemployment, skill shortages, poor health and nutrition, obesity, income inequality and social exclusion.

In turn businesses gain a number of important benefits depending on the social issues and strategies they pursue. The range of business benefits may include improved productivity and brand differentiation, as well as new and deeper insights into customer segments, new products and services, secured access to supplies and resources, enhanced employee recruitment and retention and increased market share through new and more loyal customers.

Social Innovation involves a shift in perspective in how a company contributes to community and social well-being. Whereas traditional companies contribute to social causes through donations and other charitable endeavours, social value businesses make investments in new ventures and enterprises that value social impact along with their bottom line. The most innovative businesses use Social Innovation to push these transformational practices further along the continuum of social business value, leveraging their business expertise and external collaborations to make a sustained systemic impact and drive business value.

clg_more_breakthru-articleLeading social value businesses work to identify and understand leverage points for social change along their value chain and develop win-win strategies for addressing community issues while generating business benefits. They use tools which predominate in technology development, such as design-thinking, rapid prototyping, big data, collaborative innovation labs and open innovation platforms.

The world’s most innovative and transformational businesses understand that their role in society has evolved. Leading companies harness the power of social innovation to create lasting benefits for their investors, their customers and the people living in their communities.

I encourage Chief Strategy and Innovation Officers to read my Social Innovation Guide, which examines how innovative companies around the world are using Social Innovation and other transformative strategies to address problems in today’s society while creating financial value for investors and shareholders. With input from a world-leading social innovation expert, Darcy Riddell, it is the first practical roadmap of its kind to help strategic planners, R&D managers, product developers and sustainability practitioners develop social business models.

The research and strategies outlined in this guide will show you why social businesses are more profitable businesses, and how your company can become a change agent in the local community and a leader in the global marketplace.

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