Rewarding Social Innovation: Institutionalizing Competitions

Test Driving the Future

Competitions to encourage innovation have spread around the world and they play a significant role in facilitating and promoting social innovation. For example, the Dell Social Innovation Competition has been running since 2007 and has produced over 4,500 ideas and Ashoka’s Changemakers claims 5,000 “high-impact” solutions since 2004 from over 145 countries. Corporations, foundations and governments are often the sponsors of competitions, with targets and prizes, on a diverse range of issues from climate change to gender equity. The stakes are often very high: The European Commission is banking on its Social Innovation Competition this year to generate solutions to its unemployment crisis – to find work for over 25 million unemployed citizens[1].

So much seems to be resting on these types of competitions, but what do we really know about them? Why are they growing in popularity? How are they most effectively organized? How might they change in the future?

Researchers from Cass Business School in London and the Newcastle Business School, Joseph Lampel, Pushkar Jha and Ajay Bhalla, sought to answer these questions*.

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Social Innovation – 10th October 2010

It’s a been a while since I last posted but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking and writing about social innovation.  I’ve spent the last month exploring the relationship between social innovation and place – how places might enable and constrain social innovation and the importance of the work of people to change places on social innovation.  When I have a complete draft then I might make an attempt in this space to try to articulate my thoughts.

Scanning the web over the last month – a few things stand out.

1. Article in The American Prospect – “Is giving away money – and lots of it – realy the best way to change the world?” – a look at the Gates Foundation and its approach to solving social problems.

2. Examples for Ashoka – Prison football program in Indonsia to open up discussions about HIV and Crowd-Sourcing Patient Knowledge.

3. Investing in Social Growth – Young Foundation Report exploring whether interest in the “Big Society” idea can be translated into action.

4. Social Innovation Inc – a new book that places social innovation at the heart of good business.

5.The Feast Conference (October 15th) – a TED Talks style focus on social innovation.

6. Notable absence of published research…just one conference paper defined social innovation as an “organizational capability”…”that consists of four resources: strategic orientation, product-market improvement, flexible work & organising smarter”. Social innovation in this context is connected to organizational performance and employee absenteeism.  This just highlights the variety of ways in which social innovation as a term is used.

Social Innovation News – 10th August 2010

A quick scan of the web over the last few weeks…

1. A couple of posts on what makes social innovation distinct – one by Tim Draimin (Social Innovation Generation) on the demise of Corporate Social Responsibility and heralding its replacement – Corporate Social Innovation – and another by Adil Abrar that sees social innovation as the “new rave“.

2. Lots on social innovation and technology (esp internet) as usual.  A quick scan – Social Innovation Clouds – an article on how governments can use technology to engage citizens to achieve “network-powered social innovation”, an interview with Charles Leadbeater in The Guardian, and a new crowdsourcing platform – OpenIDEO – where your contributions can build your personal DQ which has nothing to do with Dairy Queen :) (all explained in their promo video).

3. Some blogs to check out – eg Conversations for a Better World, to The Gates Notes and IDE

6. And some research articles:

Goldstein, J., Hazy, J. K., & Silberstang, J. (2010). A Complexity Science Model of Social Innovation in Social Enterprise. Journal of Social Entrepreneurship, 1(1), 101. doi:10.1080/19420671003629763

Biggs, R., Westley, F., & Carpenter, S. (2010). Navigating the Back Loop: Fostering Social Innovation and Transformation in Ecosystem Management. Ecology & Society, 15(2), 1-25. [Post to follow].

7. And finally, there are 11 winners of the US Social Innovation Fund.