Innovation, the act of improving current systems, products, and services, is the key to advancing humanity. Innovation has been and continues to be used to create new, impactful systems that solve problems. Antibiotics, smartphones, and the steam engine are a few innovations that come to mind. Although innovation generally advances the welfare of humans, its purpose can vary. Innovations are often motivated by financial gain or fame. Social innovation is a more focused form of innovation where the intention is purely about improving the well-being of individuals and communities.
Social innovation takes many forms and is not bound to one discipline. Martin Luther King Jr. changed what a social movement meant with new types of nationwide peaceful protests and movement building. Frederick Goff, who started one of the world’s first philanthropy foundations, transformed charitable giving standards among the wealthy. Khan Academy shaped the age of virtual education classes with free online videos for all to use. These businesses, and many more, to me, exemplify the pursuit of bettering humanity that I believe is at the core of social innovation.
The examples I provided were large-scale, but social innovation is often felt most at the local level. Local nonprofits and community organizations are spread throughout the world and reinvent community support. One such example is TechTown.
I have seen remarkable social innovation through TechTown’s services. They provide co-working space free of charge, providing an energetic environment and network of like-minded innovators to local businesses. I have interviewed many TechTown clients and alumni who discuss how the strategy sessions, ask an expert meetings, and capital lending programs were fundamental to their success. Additionally, it is inspiring to hear stories of business owners discussing their transformation from the start to the end of TechTown’s Retail Bootcamp and Incubator. Behind these diverse programs is the same mission to not only help grow businesses but transform Detroit into an entrepreneurial hub full of new and impactful products and services.
Social innovation gives meaning to my life. I see social innovation as a way to make a meaningful impact in a world filled with chaos, hate, and relentless challenges. The feeling of building new, disruptive products excites me, but creating those products to change others’ lives is especially meaningful to me. I hope to continue to build off my experience with TechTown, using social innovation to change the world.