Posts tagged social innovation

Dreams Matter at The Grove

We think dreams and ideas are powerful. The Grove is positioned to be a place where ideas and people can work together and find real support in the process of finding sustainable ways to make good on their ideas. When those ideas are geared toward social impact, we call this ‘social innovation.’ I define social innovation to mean: A novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just than existing solutions and for which the value created accrues primarily to society as a whole rather than private individuals. To this end we are helping to grow a movement in our city.

At the Grove we define the social value created as the creation of benefits or reductions of costs for society. A social innovation can be a product, production process, or technology (much like innovation in general), but it can also be a principle, an idea, apiece of legislation, a social movement, an intervention, or some combination of them.Indeed, many of the best recognized social innovations, such as micro-finance, are a combination of a number of these elements.

The work of stewarding the real dreams or ideas of citizens for social impact is a task worthy of our efforts. At The Grove we aim to see if collaboration across multiple sectors of society can create social value in our city. I want to foster the ‘social mission sector’ – an umbrella term used to describe the individuals and organizations whose primary mission is to produce some benefit for people and planet. Our social mission community includes individuals, nonprofits, for-profits, entrepreneurs, and individuals working for change.

Why “Social” Entrepreneur?

Just as entrepreneurs change the face of business, social entrepreneurs act as the change agents for society, seizing opportunities others miss and improving systems, inventing new approaches, and creating solutions to change society for the better. While a business entrepreneur might create entirely new industries, a social entrepreneur comes up with new solutions to social problems and then implements them on a large scale.

Historical Examples of Leading Social Entrepreneurs:

  • Susan B. Anthony (U.S.): Fought for Women’s Rights in the United States, including the right to control property and helped spearhead adoption of the 19th amendment.
  • Vinoba Bhave (India): Founder and leader of the Land Gift Movement, he caused the redistribution of more than 7,000,000 acres of land to aid India’s untouchables and landless.
  • Dr. Maria Montessori (Italy): Developed the Montessori approach to early childhood education.
  • Florence Nightingale (U.K.): Founder of modern nursing, she established the first school for nurses and fought to improve hospital conditions.
  • John Muir (U.S.): Naturalist and conservationist, he established the National Park System and helped found The Sierra Club.
  • Jean Monnet (France): Responsible for the reconstruction of the French economy following World War II, including the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). The ECSC and the European Common Market were direct precursors of the European Union.

“A social entrepreneur is a person using entrepreneurial skills to look for new solutions to create social value, not necessarily to make money or create a new product,” The social economy usually develops because of a need to find new and innovative solutions to issues (whether they be socially, economically or environmentally based) By using social mission solutions to achieve not-for-profit aims, it is generally believed that the social economy has a distinct and valuable role to play in helping create a strong, sustainable, and prosperous society.

Successful social mission organizations can play an important role in helping deliver many key objectives by:

  • enabling individuals and communities to work towards regenerating their local neighborhoods,
  • showing new ways to deliver public services,
  • helping to develop an inclusive society and active citizenship.

Coworking…What you see is what you get!

I have heard it said that what you see is what you get. Living in my neighborhood has given me a whole new understanding of what that means. As I survey the landscape, I can be assured that the urban decay brought on by cycles of disinvestment, poverty brought on by a broken welfare system, loneliness brought on by fear, addictive behavior brought on by the breakdown of family, will continue unless a new vision can become reality. I long to see something different, and we are beginning to see transformation talking place.

The idea of a vision and a people succeeding has a lot to do with the power of collaboration. The work I do in my neighborhood depends on my ability to develop relationships and identify assets already found in the neighborhood in individuals and groups. Then, by working with local neighbors, this information is used to help create a new vision for a livable neighborhood. Collaboration is the only way I know to get the job done, because the work is too great to go it alone and others need to see what could be in order to fight for what is needed. Collaboration empowers people to take responsibility for their own lives. It helps neighbors to help their neighbors and moves them from welfare and relief to empowerment. It focuses on assets found in the neighborhood, which fosters local ownership of the problems urban neighborhoods face.

Collaboration is the ability to multiply each others’ strengths, and to produce a result that no party could have achieved alone. Newer, never before seen capability, as well as new opportunities, are the hallmark of true collaboration. When  collaboration is valued, each member will contribute to the mutually agreed upon objectives and goals. The outcome is, “We did it together”.

Why form a collaborative effort?

• It is a relational way of operating between organizations who desire to see change take place.
• Much more can be accomplished through the combined effort of the entities than can be accomplished alone.
• It cuts down on the tendency to reinvent the wheel as people and organizations learn from each other.
• It encourages the use of complementary gifts and allows pooling of resources.
• Fewer resources are used as organizations draw upon each others resources to accomplish the agreed goals.
• It allows for the real development of the power and potential within the group.
• New ideas come from letting people work things out themselves. This is an attribute of the whole, not of the individual members.

I have been working to develop Groundworks and the Grove as a way to harness the power of collaboration to confront the complex issues we face in our community. Groundworks helps incubate ideas, projects and new initiatives that can address the systemic issues in our city. The beauty of this is found in the co-creative nature that emerges through the collaborative process.

Funding for social innovation can be tough. Economics and the need for finacial funding can be a tough reality because transformation takes time and incramental change is difficult to quantify. One of the powerful realities that comes through collaboration is the fact that together is more and alone is less. There are innovative ways to go further with less. When we share finacially to accomplish the collective dream, we find the resourses needed. The biblical story of Jesus feeding the 5000 points to the truth that when we share what we have, we find more than enough. I can also say that when organizations decide to collaborate, we find that when one moves, the others move like gears. Each organization at the table benefits from the provision and success of the other. Collaboration has the power to end competition between people and organizations because the social reality is when one takes two steps forward we all move forward, and thats a win for all. When people commit to the process, understand who they are and what they can bring to the table, we have a powerful formula for change.