Let’s celebrate the social innovation movement!
Last week, the social innovation field celebrated its ten years of existence at the Wayfinder event organized by SIX and hosted NESTA. We join in this celebration as there is much to be proud of.
One major achievement is that we now have a global platform for innovators and early adopters from all segments of society. These include progressive innovators, entrepreneurs, activists, funders and politicians. Like no other changemaker community before, social innovation has shattered many barriers. Instead of ‘fighting existing realities’, it has brought more attention to the craft of crafting alternatives. We’re seeing exciting collaborations that were unthinkable a decade ago – for instance, between artists and planners, between techies and development workers. And we haven’t even begun to exploit the fusion potential of design thinking, participatory development and systems change approaches.
The social innovation field owes much of its appeal to a sense of optimism and its courage to play. Our toughest challenges offer a fertile ground for new solutions. Our globalized world offers an abundance of new possibilities. Social innovators like to frame the current moment as the eye of the storm, a great turning, a shift from ego- to eco-systems. Progress may be slow and erratic, but we are on the right side of history, on the road towards a better life for all.
And yet, this is a good moment to ask: to what extent has the social innovation field been able to change the game? Has it been able to alter the seismic forces underneath contemporary problems? Think of the hegemony of neoliberalism, gender inequality, and the broken relationships between man and nature.
Some argue that it is far too early to tell. What’s a decade in the face of Polyani’s great transformation? Yet the connected chain of developments, from Brexit to Trumpism, from Duterte to Erdogan, from freezing refugees to roll backs on women’s rights, are a wake-up call. The momentum may be turning against progress. The status quo won’t give up without a fight. So even though a brighter future is not inevitable, we need to raise the game. In our next blog, we will recommend to keep our sense of optimism, whilst proposing four shifts to move the field from a state of ‘free play’ to one of ‘inclusive interactions.'
In our next blog, we will recommend to keep our sense of optimism, whilst proposing four shifts to move the field from a state of ‘free play’ to one of ‘inclusive interactions.'