Social innovation hinges on the pursuit of success defined by creation of social change— it goes beyond economic value created for stakeholders, or consumption value for customers. It involves recognizing social problems, and innovatively creating opportunities to overcome them, thus increasing value to society as a whole. It follows, however, that success in creating social value is hard to quantify in consistent ways. In addition to that, “social value” is open to interpretation. Thus, I believe a way to assess the social mission is to look at how decisions are made, even at the individual level.
This is what makes organizations like TechTown stand out to me as champions of social innovation, particularly in one of my areas of interest— investing. Such organizations employ innovative ways to enable individuals invest their time and resources into startups that matter to them, enabled by the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act of 2012. This enables even less privileged people to tap into a market that was for a long time a preserve of wealthy institutions and individuals, as they invest their resources in businesses they believe in, and rejuvenate their economy.
Such a model to me represents social innovation— overall social welfare is improved in an innovative, entrepreneurial way that harnesses individual commitment.