The challenges are growing in their social dimension across Europe, the United States and a host of other countries, both developed and developing, that are all needing urgent, fresh new responses to pressing social challenges. Innovation has to play an increasing part in resolving social challenges that are increasingly confronting us.
We expect to see increasing social demands inevitably increase as nations are being confronted with budgetary constraints, increased deficits and mounting debts to resolve. Social needs will become more pressing and innovation, societal innovation, will increasingly explore opportunities to extract ‘more from less’.
We simply have to address societal innovation even more now?
Social needs are now more pressing than ever, they will regretfully get worse before they get better. The combinations of the recent global crisis, the economic shifts from the West to the East will increasingly reduce opportunities and increase the social dimensions that will need to be dealt with. We are in social strife with unemployment challenges, ageing and climate change that all have growing stress on declining revenues in the West.
As our financial resources are getting more limited, new solutions must be found. The short term fiscal stimulus packages and bailouts have alleviated the short term but we do need to provide new innovation solutions to pressing social demands that will occur in increasing ‘waves’ over both the short, medium and long term perspective.
Social challenges are actually innovation opportunities
The challenges are tough but should be viewed as potentially new opportunities for economic and social innovations to take place. Providing solutions that are high in quality (or high enough), beneficial and affordable to the needs of the users requiring these, and that can add hope and provide value to improving their daily lives. These can offer different combinations of business, government, and entrepreneurs different avenues to explore, that are both worthwhile and contribute to society but can offer valuable job and yes, profitable enterprises, and returns for investments made.
The three categories of social innovation
In a report, which has certainly helped shape this blog, on “Social innovation in the European Union” they are suggesting that you can schematically classify social innovation into three broad categories:
Firstly, grassroots social innovation that needs to respond to pressing social demands and directed more at the (growing) vulnerable groups in society.
Secondly, a broader one that addresses societal challenges where the boundary blurs between social and economic and directed more towards society as a whole. (My Salvation Army could be a clear example or the Red Cross or even the Open University)
Thirdly, the systemic type: that relates to fundamental changes in attitudes and values, strategies and policies, organizational structures and process delivery systems and services. These include climate change, recycling as examples.
All three categories play a part in helping to manage and shape society.
Where do you see your fit?