What is social innovation?
Social innovation refers to a new way of doing things, an innovative element in a given context. It represents a breaking away from the usual solutions offered and provides a creative response to social and economic problems that cannot be solved by the market or state. It thus improves individual and collective well-being.
Social innovation can take diverse forms that do not share the same characteristics. Social enterprise and the different SSE initiatives in both the South and North are to some extent part of this approach. Social innovation initiatives innovate in the way they tackle social problems—defining the problem and identifying the causes and solutions—as well as the way they develop the processes for change, by incorporating new ideas, new concepts, new products and services, new practices and new forms of assessment
In addition to the wide range of new responses to identified social problems (for example, solidarity finance to combat social exclusion, work integration initiatives, local currencies and networks of small-scale fair trade producers), SSE initiatives innovate in the way they administer power (corporate democratization) and organize human capital and resources. They are based on cooperation between a diverse range of actors, including institutional actors, and can influence the emergence of regional and national public policies that are in turn innovative. They also use knowledge acquisition, information sharing and the development of solidarity to provide individuals with the tools to become more autonomous and empowered.
In the longer term, where it is supported by sufficiently strong social movements, social innovation and the way it questions how things are done, initiates diversified strategies and empowers individuals can lead to social transformation and drive change.
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