The word ‘innovation’ is usually positively connotated, so, without thinking about it deeply it, it is easy to associate it with creating something necessary and worthwhile. We might ask ourselves, however, why would someone invent social innovation?
There are numerous reasons to argue that social innovation is not just an empty catchphrase, but an actual contemporary challenge. All of these reasons can be summarised in one simple statement: today, the striving for fixing the world is not enough, we must be able to do it efficiently, quickly and ‘smartly’. This can only be achieved by using the best possible means, finding connections that no one has found before, thinking about how the same problem can be solved better than previously and replacing existing, albeit effective, solutions with even more effective ones.
Social change happens all the time, and times are always ‘transitional’, but at certain points in history, everything sort of ‘speeds up’. Today, we are faced with exactly such a situation when everything is changing at a dizzying pace, from technologies, to human relations, to the demographics. We are constantly confronted with permanent change.
Modern times require us to adapt to these unstable conditions on the fly. We see that old social and economic instruments do not always work. Successive crises (the economic crisis of 2008, migration crisis of 2015, the war in Ukraine 2022, the climate crisis) deepen our impression that something is over and that new ideas on fundamental issues are urgently needed.
As humans, we are failing to cope with various crises, such as:
- The looming climate catastrophe
- Radically increasing inequalities
- Rapidly ageing populations.
- Dwindling natural resources on Earth and energy poverty
- Increasing social polarisation, to name just a few.
We are no longer compelled to only seek for adjustments, but also ideas promising radical changes. It is not just a matter of preventing another crisis. It is becoming increasingly clear that the existing model itself generates crises. Even though it may sound cruel and paradoxical, we must accept that crisis is inevitable and, in a sense, permanent.
Accordingly, innovation cannot be viewed as a luxury, something nice to boast about. On the contrary, innovation is becoming essential for survival. It can save lives just like learning to swim.