Dip into Social Innovation

We are living at a point in history when the need and desire for change is profound…It is a pivotal time. Over the past two hundred years, human society has developed exceptional ingenuities, proficiencies, organizations and systems for the task of making things–from steam engines to microchips. Going forward, we must learn to be equally adept at the task of making change.”
– Eric Young, from the Forward of Getting to Maybe: How the World Is Changed

While the other themes in this Knowledge Hub help explain the elements that support social innovation, this section provides a general overview of social innovation. From here, you’re invited to explore the Hub’s specific theme areas for more learning and new ideas for action.

In this introductory video, Dr. Frances Westley explains SiG’s definition of social innovation as change that happens across scales to profoundly change complex systems. To skip the long introduction and start as Frances begins her presentation, go to the 6:15 minute mark.

The Life of an Idea

Many of the terms that came up during this video are included in the theme areas on this Knowledge Hub. All of these relate to new ideas for social change and their potential for positive, long-lasting impact. These ideas or inventions need to be designed, developed, experimented with and, when possible, scaled to become innovations that can have broad impact.

Frances’ presentation made mention of the Adaptive Cycle, a model that can be used as a tool to understand the phases where new social ideas emerge, are launched as initiatives, become successful and inevitably adapt and change over time. It also gives clues to why great ideas get stuck sometimes. This slide deck shows a visual overview of the adaptive cycle using the growth of a forest as an analogy, followed by a set of slides that look at the different stages and when different kinds of supports are needed for individuals, organizations and programs.

Some Innovative Ideas in Canada

Roots of Empathy

Roots of Empathy’s mission is to build caring, peaceful and civil societies through the development of empathy in children and adults. Developing empathy is the key to building understanding and breaking cycles of violence. The Roots of Empathy innovation is the demonstration that empathy in children can be very effectively developed in their classroom by providing experiential learning through direct, caring interactions with a baby.

For more profiles on innovative ideas, visit the SiG National site

Getting to Maybe

Much of the work developed by the SiG partnership was initially inspired by the book Getting to Maybe, by Frances Westley, Brenda Zimmerman and Michael Quinn Patton. This is an excellent introductory resource on social innovation. Click the image below to find out more about the book.

Further Resources

Now that you’ve explored some thinking and examples about social innovation, you can either Dive further to learn about these concepts in greater detail, or view other areas of the Hub. For more reading on social innovation, we recommend a couple of resources below but also feel free to search our database for other items of interest.

A social innovation primer

Patterns, Principles, and Practices in Social Innovation by Stephen Huddart