I would define social innovation as innovation that carries social deeds in mind up till last week. Earlier this week, I asked Joanna, our advisor from ProsperUs, how do we decide on what business that we wish to provide capitals(through their micro-lending program) and services (through their business service, financial coaching, and entrepreneurship training program) to since a lot of approved business’ applications lack clear, demonstrated social mission, such as sustainability. It is important to contextualize social innovation. For example, having ProsperUs in the Upper East Side of Manhattan would not make sense. Joanna explained that given Detroit's demographics with its numerous underserved communities, simply by supporting business and entrepreneurs at large betters communities in Detroit. Social impacts thus would emerge from any social innovation and entrepreneurship in such an area.
However, social innovation has other implications in other cities around the world. I would like to refer to Maslow's hierarchy of needs here. I realize that it applies to individuals and communities alike. If a vulnerable community failed to provide its residents with sustenance and shelter, they could not venture for greater deeds if they could not even get by or even struggle to survive. Then we could start talking about safety, community relationship-building, eco-friendliness, prestige, and maybe even branding. Thus, the corequisite, or even prerequisite, to social innovation is a functional community. However, we often see companies that fulfill the co-requisites to social innovation (social deeds + capital raising) and overlook the powers that companies that only fulfill the prerequisite (contributing to a functional community) could have.
That being said, it is important to identify what the community needs. Innovation with social impacts are appreciated, but some resolve social issues that carry a greater sense of urgency.