Here, you can find the most important information on social innovation. What is innovation? What are the characteristics of a social innovator? Is social innovation necessary, and if so, why? In this section we try to answer these (and other) key questions.
We encourage anyone who’s curiosity has just been piqued and who wants to learn more about innovation to browse through the books in our Library and check out podcasts and vlogs available under separate tabs.
What is social innovation?
It is difficult to come up with an exhaustive definition of social innovation. It is a new territory inhabited preferably by pioneers and practitioners. The theory they create is rarely universal and serves to structure their thinking about their own activities rather than to introduce universally valid classifications. Anyone who is interested in theoretic basis should refer, among others, to books of professor Anna Olejniczuk-Merta (e.g. “Innowacje społeczne: od aktywizacji społeczeństwa do ekosystemu innowacji”)
However, if we were to write a short dictionary entry, it would be something like:
“Social innovation is an innovative activity whose main and intended effect is to meet an actual social need or combat an actual problem.”
Members of Nesta, a UK organisation that supports social innovation interpret social innovation similarly. In “The Open Book of Innovation”, a publication of Nesta, they describe innovation as new ideas (products, services, action models) which also satisfy social needs and establish new social relationships and collaborative environments.
What does it really mean? Let us employ here the example of a popular innovation from eighty years ago.
Alcoholics Anonymous is a model developed in the 1930s in the USA to help alcohol addicts recover. — The first community has been founded by people with an alcohol addiction to simply support one another in their return to sobriety. Thus, it addresses an actual and ever-present social problem.
Even though today this method of supporting people with alcohol addiction is widespread worldwide, in 1935, when the first AA group started, it was a total novelty.