Social innovation involves the creation of unique solutions to pressing societal issues. These solutions and problems are best determined through a process of observation, questioning, experimentation, and networking with key community members and stakeholders. The primary goal of social innovation should be to create long-term social value for underserved populations sustainably and efficiently. Therefore, a person’s motive behind developing a social innovation should not solely be to create a profit (unless most of the funds will be invested back into the innovation and/or community).
Previously, when I thought about different social innovations, the first thing that came to mind was usually advancements in mechanical/technological products. However, over time I have come to realize that social innovations can also include improvements to services, processes, or business concepts. As long as the idea is challenging the status quo in efforts to positively impact the lives of local community members, then the solution can be considered a social innovation.
Social innovations are often developed by individuals or organizations that want to contribute to addressing a social problem that is deeply personal to them. Therefore, there are no restrictions on who is most qualified or worthy to create a groundbreaking idea. If an individual/organization has enough passion, resources, and partnerships to drive the process of developing the innovation, then everything else will eventually fall into place.
Successful social innovations require a focus on the Human-Centered Design framework (HCD), where adequate cooperation from target community members is essential to every step.