About Social Innovation

Changing social relations

Social innovation is a very broad concept. Social innovation is commonly defined as new ideas and solutions (products, services and models) that simultaneously meet social needs and create new social relationships or collaborations (according to Grisolia and Ferragina, 2015).

These innovations are considered both good for society and capable of enacting greater societal involvement. Social innovation enhances society’s capacity to act and is characterized by the capacity to address social needs that traditional policy seems increasingly unable to tackle, the empowerment of groups and individuals and the willingness to change social relations.

Social Innovation is still not very well understood. In the mean time a lot of people and institutions are eagerly looking forward to systemic change. And in this eagerness there is always the big pitfall for everybody involved, to create something for somebody else, and to become arrogant towards social initiatives, without even realizing this! The connection with ‘frontline work’ or real people (not projects) is missing as soon as we organize something. We created to many silo’s in our societies and to much distance by creating jobs completely disconnected from practice and street level experiences. That is why we start with people.

Looking towards the world with the notion of an ecosystem in mind, makes clear acceleration of social innovation is not about the social innovation itself, but the interaction between citizen involved in social innovation and their context. So the context is really important. Very important players in this context are local government, cities and regions. They are the (democratic) structures we created as humans: a structural order that uses operational paradigms that aren’t always open to innovation. So far the institutional repertoire towards social innovation is very limited.

Our approach towards social innovation is different. A lot of labs, hubs etc. do good work, but focus only on enterprises and use methods that don’t really fit with the reality and idea of social innovation. More and more reports state the problem of the focus on ‘product’ (and copying of solutions), scaling, challenges for social innovation etc. E.g. Lab Matters. These approaches are based on operational paradigms from the context/structures, the existing world where social innovation takes place. There we create things from the perspective of our roles, according existing ideas how to organize, and according to existing power lines, and we stick in a forced way to artificial security.

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