The world today faces a serious innovation gap. In fields ranging from chronic disease to climate change we badly need more effective models and solutions.
This paper examines how social innovation happens in NGOs, the public sector, movements and markets. It looks at the history of great social innovators – from Robert Owen to Wangari Maathai – and at the roles played by social movements, governments, businesses and NGOs. It makes the case for much more sympathetic initiatives to tap the ubiquitous intelligence that exists in every society and to increase the chances of social innovations succeeding.
Silicon Valley and its counterparts have shown what can be achieved when intelligence and investment are devoted to innovation in technology. Over the next few decades, we argue that comparable investment and attention need to be directed to innovations that address compelling unmet social needs.