Participation & Social Innovation: The ‘real thing’

One thing stands out when scanning the literature on social innovation.  Participation.  You just can’t get around it – the act of working on novel solutions to social problems involves a crowd.

What’s surprising then is that many of the detailed examples of social innovation focus on the work of particularly special people (Bornstein, 2007; Elkington & Hartigan, 2008).

We know that behind these social entrepreneurs are lots of people playing crucial enabling and support roles – providing expertise and funding.

We also know that people can come together and produce amazing things as the numerous examples on the web demonstrate – such as Ohmynews that uses web based technology to involve citizen journalists in South Korea or ReachOut! – a web-based peer-to-peer approach to tackle depression among young people that started in Australia and is now spreading in the US.

Less known, and perhaps more important, is the crucial element of participation by those with a direct experience of the social problem.

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