A “new” kind of Social Innovation

Posted by Flux on 

16 February 2017

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A “new” kind of social innovation

In 2014 the World Economic Forum launched the Global Agenda council on Social Innovation. Delegates in attendance defined the term social innovation as ‘companies that proactively design and implement business models that increases incomes and better the quality of life for the underserved and vulnerable communities ’. Social innovation sees companies imbedding social value right into the core of the business versus the traditional Corporate Social Responsibility. This saw company’s social contribution as an isolated entity to the core functions, products and business impact.

Why it’s important

With the increase in the success of social enterprises, more ‘traditional’ businesses have woken up to the prospect of social purpose and profit-making working hand in hand. Businesses are moving out of their everyday spaces to find new ideas to connect, communicate with their current and potential customers and develop innovative ways to tackle social issues. NGO’s are no longer viewed as antagonistic voices. Instead, they are becoming innovation co-developers. Co-creation sees companies partnering, collaborating and financing projects with social enterprises and NGOs. Companies are pivoting their competence to test, prototype business ventures and create value for the business and communities.

The German Pharmaceutical company, Boehringer Ingelheim (BI), have developed internal and external social innovation initiatives in collaboration with Ashoka to find various methods to tackle global health issues. The ‘Making More Health’ initiative allows for corporate employees to connect with social entrepreneurs to co-create social opportunities for the company.

BI broadened its social innovation scope with the co-creation concept titled a ‘Healthier World Challenge’. The challenge sees two or more players from various industries come together to co-design new ideas and products which tackle a range of health issues. One of the successful results saw the Micro clinic in Kenya receiving funding and assistance in its winning proposal which aims to incorporate a new screening process for cardiovascular diseases in rural clinics.

Butterfly Effect

Australia has seen an increase in social ventures within their communities. With an estimate of 20 000 for profit and social purpose businesses, the coffee-conscious industry is paving the way. Streat Coffee trains 150 under privileged young people who are living with challenges such as substance abuse and mental health issues. The success of Streat initiative has seen 80% of its trainees find stable employment or further their studies.

Corporate giants Johnson & Johnson, PWC and insurance company Zuric are three of the seven companies that have signed the Buy Social Corporate challenge . This will see companies spend 1 billion Euros between them on social enterprises by 2020. The pledge involves companies buying goods and services from the UK’s 70,000 estimated social driven businesses.

The Pioneers

Over the past decade Danone has used elements of social innovation to reinvent itself. Their collaboration with social business pioneer Prof. Muhammad Yunus saw Danone and Grameen Bank, playing a creditable role in providing nutritional foods to children in Bangladesh through Grameen Danone Foods Limited.

In recent years, start-up companies such as LSTN provide products and services which enable them to cater to social issues within their industry. LSTN partnered with Starkey hearing foundation with the aim to connect individuals through sound. Every pair of headphones that is sold helps provide a less privileged person with a hearing aid.

Global hotspots

USA, Australia and UK

By: Khumo Theko

About Khumo

Khumo is our in house Research and Operations Assistant. She aims to unpack the influential cultural layers that make the African continent tick. While joining the dots that lead to innovative creations and solutions that are shaping the way we live and interact.

Image credit: All about Work

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