Social Innovation – Doing More With More

The following post was first published on Al Etmanski’s blog, posted 6 April 2011.

The phrase social innovation is surfacing everywhere.  The European Union has just launched Social Innovation Europe.  The UK has multiple initiatives around social innovation. President Obama has an Office of  Social Innovation and Civic Participation. The Canadian Government has established awards for social innovation.  The British Columbia Government has created anAdvisory Council on Social Entrepreneurship, “to maximize social innovation.”

Some, naturally will be suspicious.  Is this new rhetoric for the same old same old?  Is this an attempt by governments and their apologists to off- load responsibilities to communities without additional resources?

Social innovation should not be about doing more with less.  It is about doing more with more.

  • More citizens, volunteers, families and social networks creatively applying their talents and ingenuity to solve our social challenges
  • More non profits with the resources to deal with the causes of our social challenges not just the effects – finally able to turn their attention to reducing and preventing recurrences
  • More innovative practices within the public service to improve how they deliver services to people and more importantly their timely, proactive response to innovative community solutions
  • More businesses adding social and environmental impact to their mission, thereby creating blended economic and social value
  • More sectors working together in partnership
  • More financial investment in creative community solutions that demonstrate results.

We haven’t successfully resolved long-standing complex societal problems like domestic violence, poverty, homelessness or exclusion, let alone emerging challenges like climate change, social isolation and healthy ageing.

We will need more of everything – creativity, innovation, engagement, people, organizations, sectors, networks, resources and finances.  Social innovation is simply a rallying phrase for all hands on deck, for doing more with more.

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About Al Etmanski

Al Etmanski is a community organizer, social entrepreneur and author. He is an Ashoka fellow and a faculty member of John McKnight’s Asset-Based Community Development Institute. He is founding partner of Social Innovation Generation (SiG) and BC Partners for Social Impact and co-founder of Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN). He blogs at His new book, Impact-Six Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation is already a Canadian best seller.


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