Social innovation is not a fixed address

My colleague Professor Frances Westley, co-author of the pioneering book Getting to Maybe, leads a team at the University of Waterloo that is decoding the genome of social innovation.

One of Frances’ many insights is that “social innovation is not a fixed address.” This means that when one social innovation is adopted, it will shift the existing equilibrium governing the system it interacts with. Therefore, because of the way a social innovation meets one need, it might simultaneously surface and engender other needs that require yet more social innovation.
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Optimizing Public Sector Innovation Platforms

Public sector innovation is a top-of-mind subject in government hallways across Canada. Innovation in the public sector has taken on new urgency as austerity budgets accelerate the necessity to re-think how government services can be provided or even how, in some cases, the system can shift from service delivery to tackling root causes that have given rise to the demand for support.

Ambitious public sector reform necessarily will range from new policies, to new ways of engaging with provincial and national innovation ecosystems, and to creating innovation Labs that support change makers inside government.
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The Future Quotient: A New Social Innovation

In early October a new watershed report appeared, co-authored by John Elkington and Charmian Love of Volans and Alastair Morton from JWT. Entitled: The Future Quotient: 50 Stars in Seriously Long-Term Innovation, the report draws attention to the dramatic gap in modern society’s ability to be planning multi-generationally.

The Volans-JWT report accepts that the recent economic crisis was squandered by not being put to use to create positive change at a moment when modern society is heading into a period of dramatic transition. Unfortunately they identify that we are entering an era of creative destruction at a time “when natural resource and environmental security challenges are pressing in.”

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Social Finance in the UK: Cutting Edge, Bleeding Edge

In business there is belief in “first mover advantage”, when a company gains an advantage over competitors by being first to the market with a new product or service.

In the social finance realm, Canadian practitioners have benefited from following UK’s social investment and social finance ecosystem, which is strongly supported by the government. The UK was able to pioneer and act as a role model for many new ideas and approaches that outsiders could learn from, emulate, or adapt. These include The Charity Bank, Bridges Ventures, ClearlySo, The Social Investment Task Force, The Commission on Unclaimed Assets, The Young Foundation’s and Social Finance UK’s social impact bond work, and more.
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Trending in 2011: social innovation goes mainstream

Social innovation will be much more visible in 2011. Al Etmanski is the thought leader who advocates that “social innovation needs to be in the water supply”, his metaphor for going mainstream.

Another way to think of it is that social innovation has to be recognized as integral to the DNA of mainstream “innovation”.

I think social innovation will be embraced as the necessary, integrated complement to business-oriented, science and technology, R+D innovation.
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Global Financial Crisis Silver Lining: European Banks Commit Funding for Social Enterprise

The recent financial crisis has led to banks in Ireland expanding funding for social enterprise.  Now the UK banks are poised to follow suit.

In late November London’s Financial Times reported that Britain’s banks could commit  £1.5bn to Prime Minister’s David Cameron’s  “Big Society Bank” as part of a “charm offensive” to “end the war between politicians and bankers that has raged since the crash of 2008.” Leading the project is John Varley, chief executive of Barclays.
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Has anyone learned their lesson from the global financial crisis?

In 2008 the United States financial crisis sparked a domino-like global recession throwing millions out of work.  Triggered by a lax and liberalized regulatory system in the United States, the crisis sounded the death knell for the G7’s leadership and catapulted the G20 into prominence as the world’s new governance framework for global economic management.  It also fed a US climate of electoral revolt.
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The danger of taking the social out of innovation

By dropping the social in innovation, is North America breaking the innovation chain?

Andy Grove, a co-founder of Intel and a Silicon Valley icon, is sounding two alarms about innovation’s future. Both flow from his disagreement with the accepted article of faith that the US tech sector necessarily should focus high-end jobs in the US and export manufacturing jobs.

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Tackling Social Innovators’ Last Mile Challenge

The development of social innovations is often a complex on-going process of insight, trial and error, insight, trial and error, insight…until things felicitously fit into place and a smart approach reaches a new plateau.

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Corporate Social Responsibility is Dead: Long Live Corporate Social Innovation


As Harvard’s corporate strategy guru Michael Porter points out, over the past century the boundaries between business and social issues have undergone dramatic changes.  One hundred years ago a large business enterprise might have been the social patron, providing housing, education or other forms of welfare for its company town residents.  But over time the scope of corporate responsibility retreated.
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