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

The variety of social problems

If there is one thing that unites the emerging field of social innovation it is a shared interest in social problems.  But on closer inspection social problems are seen to be treated in a number of different ways.

One of the most striking features of the social problems presented in the literature is how dramatically they vary in scale. Social innovation, for some, is concerned with global problems such as climate change that affect everyone (Cooperridder & Pasmore, 1991; Osborn, 2009), in contrast to those who focus on local problems such as deprivation that affect a select few within a specific neighbourhood (Nussbaumer & Moulaert, 2004). There are also differences in the way the social problem is specified. It can range from a general term such as “the economic crisis” (Mulgan, 2009) to more specific issues such as dealing with obesity and addictions (Mulgan, 2006).

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