Social innovation is the process of creatively working towards addressing a social need. I view social needs as those required for our quality of life. Beyond the necessary items like food and water, we as a society require strong communal support systems, accessible healthcare, a sense of security, and the freedom to live our lives the way we see fit. In modern society, there are numerous obstacles that prevent people from actualizing these needs ranging from systematic racial prejudices to corporate greed and it is the social innovator’s responsibility to develop products and/or services that address these obstacles.
For me, a caveat of social innovation is the intention with which it is carried out. I firmly believe that to identify oneself as a social innovator the individual or group must have the predominate goal of increasing societal welfare. This separates social innovators from big businesses like Google who create products of tremendous societal value but with the primary goals of profit. This is not to say that individuals and groups within companies like Google are not social innovators.
Social innovation can pop up anywhere. It can range from small local initiatives to a multinational effort involving the private, not-for-profit, and governmental sectors. All it requires is identifying a problem, some creativity, the right intentions, and a great deal of effort.