What is Social Innovation?

naomi marie
2 min readJul 21

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This is the most common question I get after telling people that I have a Master’s Degree in Social Innovation. Social Innovation means something different to people who use social innovation as a tool, or describe themselves as a change maker, difference maker, or social innovator.

This is how I define Social Innovation: The strategic partnership between multiple stakeholders across the public, private, and philanthropic sectors. Stakeholders work together to innovate social systems for the greater good.

Social Innovation is not new, because there are so. many examples that by my definition, are socially innovative. These innovators aren’t necessarily nonprofits, businesses, or municipalities. Community organizers and activists, you know grassroots folks — are the catalyst that our social systems need. Organizers and activists draw on their own lived experiences, and lean on relationship building and collaboration.

Drawing on my design background, I understand that anything designed can be redesigned — design is as adaptable, agile, solution-oriented, and efficient as the designer doing the design, is. I will reference “Bruce Mau, Massive Change” and “Design for the other 90%”. Massive Change taught us that “it’s not about the world of design, but the design of the world.” Design for the other 90% highlighted innovative design solutions for social good and quality of life.

Social Innovation uses both quantitative data (hard metrics) and qualitative data (lived experiences & storytelling) as a way to create solutions that address social needs holistically. The wonderful part about Social Innovation is that it can be and has been used by anyone, since it’s all about creating new solutions to social needs.

The lines have been blurred between the public, private, and philanthropic sectors. Social Innovators are people that can navigate ambiguity and can take the best parts of the public, private, and philanthropic sectors in order to create sustainable and restorative change. Embracing collective partnerships, collaboration, and coalition building is the future. The silos of the sectors are being asked to transform, in order to co-create new ways of being and doing.

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naomi marie

I am a person who believes in sharing knowledge so that others may benefit and grow. Our liberation is tied together, so let us resist together.