Social Innovation & Special Effects

What perhaps distinguishes social innovation from any other type of innovation is its concern with effects.  In other words, what difference does it make, and proponents of social innovation are upfront in what they expect to see.

For Phills et al. (2008) –  a novel solution to the social problem qualifies as a social innovation only if it 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, p. 36). This effect – known as “social value” – involves creating benefits or reducing societal costs in ways that “go beyond the private gains and general benefits of market activity” (Phills et al., 2008, p. 39).

The challenge is then to work out what qualifies.  Continue reading


Defining social innovation…

One of the challenges facing those interested in social innovation is finding a workable definition. A scan of the literature reveals that social innovation covers a whole range of different meanings and so, while it is popular, it is conceptually difficult to nail down. That is why one particular Stanford Social Innovation article in 2008 was so important.

James Phills, Kriss Deiglmeier and Dale Miller sought to find a way through the multiple definitions and feared that it was becoming indistinguishable from the popular terms of social entrepreneurship and social enterprise. Although they could see much in common they put forward a definition that they hoped would create some boundaries around the term and spark further interest.

Continue reading