What is Social Innovation?

Many definitions:

  1. Social innovation is a concept that involves the use of new technology, or the new use of existing technology to achieve a social purpose. It includes the application of examples of good social practice so that these can have an impact on more people. From here.
  2. Social Innovation happens through new solutions to social needs. To solve problems such as social exclusion, lack of quality of life, and participation, we need new solutions and to reinvent the existing ones to achieve better quality, more impact and efficiency. The creation of new strategies and answers to address social needs is urgent, especially where they are getting worse (i.e. climate change and aging), where the existing models have failed or idle (i.e. democratic participation, criminal justice or education), and where exists unexplored potential (i.e. the intelligent use of technology for housing and health). From here.
  3. Social innovation refers to strategies, concepts, organizations that meet social needs of all kinds and strengthen civil society. Examples of social innovation include micro-credit financing in Third World Countries, earned income strategies in nonprofit management, zero-waste/closed loop industrial systems, socially responsible business and corporate social responsibility. From here.
  4. Case studies here.
  5. Social innovators are individuals who propose novel ways to consider and solve major social issues. Social innovators partner with communities to offer sustainable solutions to society’s most pressing social problems. The social innovator recognizes when a part of society is stuck and provides new ways to get unstuck. Rather than leaving societal needs to government or business, social innovators solve problems by changing the system, spreading the solution, and persuading entire societies to take new approaches. Effective social innovation links research to practice, builds on existing community strengths, takes a long-term view, encourages measured risks, builds networks and partnerships across sectors and silos, and invests in strategic research and policy analysis. From here.
  6. social innovation — the emerging art and science of bringing different groups of people to the table to collaborate on solving complex community-based problems such as poverty reduction, disease control and job creation. From here.
  7. The process of Social Innovation from here.
  8. To simply define, social innovation is to meet unmet social needs through the development of new products, services and organisations. From here.
  9. “pattern-changing new ideas that meet pressing unmet social needs…” From here.

And finally from the Centre for Social Innovation

Definitions of social innovation abound and a casual observer can quickly become entangled in a debate over meaning and nuance. We’re not too hung up about it so we’ve adopted a simple working definition: Social Innovation refers to new ideas that resolve existing social, cultural, economic and environmental challenges for the benefit of people and planet. A true social innovation is systems-changing – it permanently alters the perceptions, behaviours and structures that previously gave rise to these challenges.

Even more simply, a social innovation is an idea that works for the public good.

Social innovations come from individuals, groups or organizations, and can take place in the for-profit, nonprofit and public sectors. Increasingly, it is happening in the spaces between these three sectors as differing approaches collide to spark new ways of thinking about the challenges we all face


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