Here are some of the definitions in the literature on social innovation.
- A novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just than existing solutions and for which the value created accrues primarily to society as a whole rather than private individuals (Phills et al, 2008).
- We define social innovations as new ideas (products, services and models) that simultaneously meet social needs and create new relationships or collaborations. In other words, they are innovations that are both good for society and enhance society’s capacity to act (Murray, Caulier-Grice, & Mulgan, 2010, p. 3).
- We use the term ’social innovation’ to refer to new ideas (products, services and models) developed to fulfil unmet social needs. Many are supported by the public sector, others by community groups and voluntary organizations. Social innovation is not restricted to any one sector or field (Bacon, Faizullah, Mulgan & Woodcraft, 2008).
- Innovative activities and services that are motivated by the goal of meeting a social need and that are predominantly developed and diffused through organizations whose primary purposes are social.(Mulgan, Tucker, Ali & Sanders, 2007)
- The generation and implementation of new ideas about how people should organize interpersonal activities, or social interactions, to meet one or more common goals. (Mumford, 2002). New ideas about social systems and social interactions, while rare, can have a tremendous impact on our lives and world (Marcy & Mumford, 2007).
- We use the term ’social innovation’ to refer to new ideas (products, services and models) developed to fulfil unmet social needs. Many are supported by the public sector, others by community groups and voluntary organizations. Social innovation is not restricted to any one sector or field. (Bacon, Faizullah, Mulgan & Woodcraft, 2008).
- Social innovation is an initiative, product or process or program that profoundly changes the basic routines, resource and authority flows or beliefs of any social system. (Westley, 2008).
- Social innovation is not just about improving the innovative capacity of social organizations. Rather, it is about innovations in our capacity to organize social and financial resources to achieve large-scale social impact. (Eric Young cited by Pearson, 2007).
- Three core dimensions: the satisfaction of human needs (content dimension); changes in social relations especially with regard to governance (process dimension); and an increase in the socio-political capability and access to resources (empowerment dimension). (Gerometta, Haussermann & Longo, 2005)
- A social innovation as a significant, creative and sustainable shift in the way that a given society dealt with a profound and previously intractable problem such as poverty, disease, violence, or environmental deterioration. (Nilsson, 2003)
- 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 system-changing – it permanently alters the perception, behaviours and structures that previously gave rise to those challenges…Even more simply, a social innovation is an idea that works for the public good. (Centre for Social Innovation, Toronto)
- ‘Social innovation’ is a term that almost everyone likes, but nobody is quite sure what it means. Some academics would like to abandon the notion of social innovation altogether, arguing that it adds nothing to what we know about innovation and is too vague to be useful. (Pol & Ville, p. 881)
- Perhaps it [social innovation] is one of those concepts that can only be framed and used as an analytical tool as well as one can but not exhaustively defined. It goes without saying that the concept of social innovation provides not only a seductively topical, but also a positively wholesome counterweight to more technologically orientated literature. The problem, however, is that when one presses harder to pin down the idea, its inherent appeal and the search for conceptual clarity and precision is tested by theoretical complexity, ambiguity and frustrating conceptual flexibility. (Sotarauta, 2009, p.623).
- Social innovation is about tapping into the ingenuity of charities, associations and social entrepreneurs to find new ways of meeting social needs which are not adequately met by the market or the public sector. It can help bring about the behavioural changes needed to tackle the major societal challenges, such as climate change. Social innovations empower people and create new social relationships and models of collaboration. They are thus innovative in themselves and good for society’s capacity to innovate. (European Commission Innovation Union, 2010)
- Social innovation is about innovating creative, market-based solutions to social problems that result in high growth, profitable business opportunities. (Saul, 2011)
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