I used to think that innovation was only associated with business. I thought that innovation was all about creative ideas supported by strategic planning and decision-making to make a business more successful. However, after exploring and reading into different organizations in a class I took last semester called “Gamer-Changers,” I realized that innovation can be used beyond the scope of solely monetary gain. It can be used to combat social inequities and create prosperous societies. Defined best by Sarah A Soule, Neil Malhotra, and Bernadetter Clavier, social innovation is “the process of developing and deploying effective solutions to challenging and often systemic social and environmental issues in support of social progress”.
Despite the constant advancements in the field of medicine, communities around the world still lack healthcare access and resources. This results in health disparities, which are frequently linked to geographic location and communities. Other disparities are the result of income inequality, with people who cannot afford healthcare that is otherwise unavailable. To address these economic challenges, health professionals and stakeholders must look for ways to uplift and include underrepresented communities in public health forums, encourage physicians to practice in remote areas, implement policies that reduce barriers and increase access to health care, and provide resources for ventures that will benefit the people’s health and well-being.
Detroit’s boom and bust auto industry explains the high poverty rate that has ultimately resulted in the city ranking in the bottom third of the nation in overall personal health. However, starting somewhere around the middle of the first decade of this century, the city started doing a lot of innovative things. Most of which are social innovations that have helped Detroit rebuild its community and the city as a whole. For instance, Motor City Match, a program where the city takes its federal block grant money and connects landlords and entrepreneurs to start 65 to 70 new businesses in the city’s neighborhoods. From this and many other instances, we can see how impactful and beneficial innovation can be for a community. There are a lot of creative ways to deliver, mitigate, and fix social issues, making social innovation so important and useful.
As someone who is very passionate about the accessibility of healthcare and interested in the impacts of innovation and entrepreneurship, I am very interested in getting more involved in the social innovation space. I’m so excited to be working with MedHealth this summer on their mission and vision to connect, convene, and educate the medical innovation ecosystem in Southeast Michigan and Southwest Ontario to accelerate the adoption of technologies that improve quality of care and contribute to economic growth. MedHealth helps combat inequities in healthcare by connecting healthcare stakeholders to improve the quality of care. Through my project, I hope to contribute to the distribution of resources for various ventures that focus on improving health care access and resources for the Detroit community and beyond. I am thrilled to learn more about the power and influence of social innovation and can’t wait to see all that it does for the community in the future.
All in all, I now see innovation in a new light. I see the positive impacts that social innovation make. I see how it is capable of making significant and lasting change for complex social problems, such as the inequities in healthcare and education. Social innovation provides an alternative solution to challenges in society and is a vehicle for creating social change and prosperous societies.