Are you Socially innovative?

Learning about Social Innovation

I was asked this question today in class and I was unsure how to answer. Have I been part of an innovative process? Maybe. Have I applied socially conscious techniques to problem solving? Maybe.

Social Innovation is the buzz phrase that has all the non profit leaders and funders and governments (at least in Canada) forking out millions of dollars into. However, what is this concept that people refer to?

Today, I embarked on an interesting free fall into graduate studies — Masters in Philanthropy & Non Profit Management at Carleton University, Ottawa, ON, Canada. This program attracted me, because of its attempt to bridge the academic and theoretical approach to the non profit work that I have been involved in for many years. The first elective/course I have taken in this program is Social Innovation, with Course Director Omar Ramroop.

This course (the first of its kinds)is a hybrid course, which included fairly intensive (yet enjoyable) pre-readings, which brought to light and overview of Social Innovation and its development, Systems thinking, Complexity Theory (?) , and the Ontario Strategy for Social Innovation. So clearly, I read all these things and entered into a combination of excitement and confusion all at the same time. The in class experience is very participatory and brings together a wide variety of experiences. Additionally, we are being treated to visitors/guest speakers who have a wealth of experience in the corporate, governmental, non profit and community experience.

Day 1's Sage: Dr. Jack Muskat- Leadership Professor, Schulich School of Business

Key Takeaways from Day 1

  1. No one really knows what Social Innovation is.
  2. Can you teach innovation, entrepreneurship or leadership?
  3. Social Innovation is a truly elitist concept, and the jargon is not easily transferable and inherently discriminatory. We continue to remind ourselves that Social Innovation may be a newer term, but is not a new concept and has been happening in many parts of the world without the term attached to it.
  4. There is a misconception in social good work that you have to “Bleed to Lead”, this means be willing to make personal, financial and structural sacrifices. This is also an inherently privileged position to take.
  5. One of the challenges of dealing with Social Innovation is “legislating morality” and the challenges are creating structures around altruistic work.
  6. Its new, hip and cool to start a non profit organization, but should this practice be celebrated?
  7. There is constant mention of “Tri-Sector” approach to innovation. The “Tri-Sector” includes government(public sector), private sector and nonprofit sector. I do believe this simplified approach negates the true indepth collaborative user-centric approach that Social Innovation claims to use.
  8. How does leadership work in the Social Innovation space? We spoke of the importance of leaders and more so , followers, but to truly look at the right kind of “leadership” within a social innovation space is challenging.

It was a very thought provoking day, and I look forward to learning more, and continuing to reflect, and maybe get more academic as the week progresses. It is a rare privilege that one is granted the time and space to discuss these issues and be exposed to a plethora of different experiences and perspectives in the same room.

Great Resources (that aren’t secret)

Standford Social Innovation Review

SiG Knowledge Hub

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