Check out these three upcoming webinars from the Harvard Kennedy School’s Power of Social Innovation Series! All are free online webinars. Registration required. Of particular interest to those social innovators working in or with goverment.
Here is a TED Talk released today by Charles Leadbeater on the topic of education in developing countries. He argues that the western model of education just doesn’t fit the challenges of everyday life in many of these countries. Leadbeater provides examples of novel approaches to education around the world and considers how they might be shared with the other thousands/millions of children and adults seeking education. He argues for a “Chinese Restaurant” approach to diffusion over a McDonald’s…in other words schools share similar principles but don’t look the same.
There are Chinese restaurants everywhere, but there is no Chinese restaurant chain. Yet, everyone knows what is a Chinese restaurant. They know what to expect, even though it’ll be subtly different and the colors will be different and the name will be different. You know a Chinese restaurant when you see it. These people work with the Chinese restaurant model. Same principles, different applications and different settings. Not the McDonald’s model. The McDonald’s model scales. The Chinese restaurant model spreads.
For many, the interest in social innovation is motivated by the idea of transformation. The goal isn’t just about creating a novel solution to a social problem, its about transforming the social problem once and for all. This is not about creating ripples, this is about ‘sea change’. That’s what makes it so appealing to those who want to change the world.
The problem is that transforming social problems through a novel solution is incredibly difficult. A dominant strategy is one that tends to focus on diffusion. To transform a social problem is to ‘overwhelm it’ with the solution. The logic of this approach is compelling.