What is social innovation in business?

The word innovation would usually conjure up new technologies or processes or even new inventions that are used for growth in business but what is social innovation in business?

If we look deeper into this and further than just the growth of a business, we see the growth of society, community growth and prosperity.

So, let’s look past corporate social responsibility and look at corporate social innovation.

Both are used but both are very different.

Social Innovation is all about a business addressing social challenges and improving solutions whereas social responsibility is all about incorporating strategies that are ethical and beneficial to society.


Why social innovation is important

With the current economic climate, the world is facing slower growth, financial instability, political turmoil, hunger, poverty, and disease – all of which are social issues.  All of which are seen to be potential big business opportunities.

We need to address and realise that social and economic wealth run alongside each other.

So, taking this a step further then, its not about charity or being seen to be adding value, in effect its about doing good business that then passes on to society, enabling that to grow.

Taking an example of this, displaced people challenge society in that they need healthcare, schooling, housing, language training – all of which has to fit in with and work with the current population they move in to.

Using data, a business can start to lay out a strategy to effect this, another business can work on streamlining health and another on schooling, all of which will work with research facilities, so business growth in its simplistic form works on social innovation.


What is an example of social innovation

  • Enable Talk is a technology that turns sign language into speech,
  • Summo – a communication service for mobile clinics in South Africa.
  • Another example would be Artificial Sun – lighting that address food shortages by having light in extreme climates
  • Squirrel AI Learning – enabling poorer students in China to access education through AI
  • Altered Company – nozzles to reduce water waste by 98% thus affecting societies who struggle with water
  • Infarm who have teamed up with Marks and Spencer with vertical urban farming that will reduce emissions with less travel from countryside to cities
  • Sweden has built a road that charges electric vehicles whilst they drive
  • Dendra Systems – this UK company has found a way to plant trees 150 times faster using drones


You can see from all those listed above, and they are just a miniscule portion of what is happening now, how they affect the society around them, enabling that society to both prosper and grow.

That to me is social innovation in its simplest form – taking the problems of what is happening and innovating to improve society as a whole.

Too simplistic?

Would love to hear your thoughts on this.  So, we intend having a roundtable event later this year where we can all get together to chat about how you feel you can impact this and what you feel would benefit the community as whole.


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