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  • Social Innovation Musings

    Social Innovation Musings

    (image via pinterest)

    [Adapted for Think Thrice. Originally written for and published on the Social innovation Generation blog]

    My first three weeks at SiG have flown by. As the newest member of SiG National’s team, I’ve had to hit the ground sprinting. I joined the SiG team to help create momentum for social innovation in Canada, with a particular focus on creating (and implementing) a strategy to support the existing Lab ecosystem across the country. You may be asking: what exactly is a Lab? There are a lot of definitions floating around. In the social innovation space, a Lab is a powerful tool used to develop holistic solutions to complex social problems (particularly those problems that have become resistant to traditional solutions). To help make all of this more clear, SiG constantly updates and develops new resources viewable on the SiG National and SiG@Waterloo website.

    As a quick peak inside my brain, here are a couple of current musings around Labs and social innovation that have piqued my interest.

    Language matters. We often don’t realize small distinctions, like the difference between the word ‘prototype’ (the first iteration of many, still emergent) and ‘pilot’ (has the connotation of more permanence). The ability to translate across different cultures, industries, demographics, socio-economic backgrounds …etc. is an invaluable skill when cross-collaborating. So how can we get better at it? And, how do we get better at using our ears and mouth proportionately (2:1 ears:mouth)?

    Blurred Divides. In social entrepreneurship and social enterprise we often talk about getting to a point where there is no distinction of the ‘social’; where all entrepreneurs and enterprises have the triple bottom line in mind. What if we push this thinking further to the sectors: private, public and social? What if all three sectors embodied the strengths of the others insofar that the lines, there too, become blurred. What do we need to do now to enable and accelerate this movement?

    Face to face. It is hard to find time for in person collaboration but magic happens when everyone is in the same room (inspiration and feeding off one another’s energy). As well, stronger offline relationships build trust and confidence in one another. How can we make the most out of in person meetings and get better at enabling this magic?

    Leveling the playing field. There is a lot of buzz about the democratization of knowledge (access to education and acknowledgement of various schools of thought), innovation/funding (no longer only the loudest and the most connected startups find investors), etc. But does all of this democratization really dissolve power, seniority and/or hierarchy? Particularly in the context of Labs, how can we create safe/neutral ‘containers’ void of egos and power struggles to enable innovation to flourish?

    In the wise words of organizational scientist William Starbuck, “the best way to understand a complex system is by interfering with it”. SiG is doing just that. I look forward to exploring these and other ideas around social innovation as we push the boundaries of this movement.

    - Satsuko

    For more on the topics discussed above, check out these resources:

    • Re. Language: interesting talk by Linda Rottenberg (CEO of Endeavor Global) at the 99% Conference about how not having a word for ‘entrepreneur’ in Portuguese affected the number of startups and ventures in Brazil
    • Re. Blurred dividesTri-Sector Forum is a new platform aiming to help prepare leaders to make the transition between sectors and build solutions from multiple perspectives.
    • Re. Face to Face: great book about how to hold more effective and efficient meetings. How To Make Meetings Work! by Michael Doyle
    • Re. Leveling the playing field: great book exploring real examples from his work developing solution to complex issues, Power and Love by Adam Kahane
    Related posts: Lab Landscape [Part 1]: Maximizing The Potential Of Innovation Labs in Canada (essay on things to consider when building a lab), Two Brilliant Bits of Wisdom And One Big Question From ALIA 2012 (musings from the ALIA Conference)