Social Innovation is innovation with a social purpose – The desire to find long-term solutions to social problems using new ways of thinking and working. The web has transformed the way we communicate, work, shop and entertain, and is now providing unprecedented opportunities for social change at both local and global levels. With it a game-changing idea, whether it deals with healthcare, fighting poverty, education or the environment, can now spawn from just one person.
SocialInnovationCamp provides the framework for developing these individuals’ seedling ideas into tangible social change by connecting and collaborating knowledge and resources within the private, public and NGO sectors.
The two sides to social innovation:
Innovations are everywhere, for instance in the shift from physical mail to emailing. Many social innovations are of this type – small in scale but big in impact. In many urban cities in the US, for instance, derelict buildings are being knocked down and turned into shared community gardens. This builds strong communities as well as increasing clean air and exercise among residents.
However what many people are excited about is the potential for disruptive social innovation. Disruptive social innovations require fundamental reassessment, asking questions such as why are things as they are now? How can social circumstances be transformed if people worked in an entirely new manner? We are at the very beginning of these processes but they are
already reshaping the way we deal with our social problems. As an example, in Zambia where conventional banking is cost prohibitive, and payment and voucher schemes are prone to fraud, Mobile Transactions (MTZL) created a mobile phone-based banking and payment service for low wage earners and businesses, which made banking more affordable and in turn enabled them to receive payments more efficiently.
From Social Innovation Camp to real world social innovation
Fix My Street is a great example of an Internet tool birthed from the UK Social Innovation Camp and is now creating a vast positive change on the streets of the UK. Its user-friendly website invites citizens to report problems in their area – anything from defective street lights to shouldn’t-be-there rubbish dumps – using Ordnance Survey maps and postcodes. These precise reports are promptly forwarded to their relevant local authority, so that the street problems may be fixed swiftly. To ensure that action takes place, it even collates follow-up reports indicating when problems have been resolved.
HomelessSMS is another project that uses accessible technology to improve people’s lives. HomelessSMS is a free-to-use sms service that provides information on local services to homeless people. The idea originated with one man and with the help of Social Innovation Camp, which connected him with stakeholders in housing services and the founder of a mobile-based SMS service used by International NGOs, among others, the project secured a partnership with a leading homeless charity that has agreed to rollout in London on trial.
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