What is Social Innovation?

A common definition of Social Innovation is ‘the development of new ideas to meet unmet social needs in the public good'. Simply put, social innovations are ideas that work. They are new solutions that:-

  • Meet a social need more effectively;
  • Lead to specific new/improved capabilities & relationships;
  • Lead to better use of assets & resources;
  • Are good for society & enhance society’s capacity to act.

All social innovations have the following common features:- 

  • Grass roots and bottom–up;
  • Create new roles & relationships;
  • Open & collaborative.

Social innovation describes the entire process by which new responses to social needs are developed in order to deliver better social outcomes. This process is composed of four main elements:

  1. Identification of new/unmet/inadequately met social needs;
  2. Development of new solutions in response to these social needs;
  3. Evaluation of the effectiveness of new solutions in meeting social needs;
  4. Scaling up of effective social innovations.

Often, social innovation involves not just new ideas but the remaking and reuse of existing ideas. Social innovations can take the form of a new service, initiative or organisation or, alternatively, a radically new approach to the organisation and delivery of services.

Social innovations can also spread in the form of ideas, values, software, tools and habits. Innovations in all of these senses can spread throughout a profession or sector, such as education or health care, or geographically from one place to another.