Social innovation: beyond the hype

Kennisland believes that we must look beyond the trend for new solutions. New solutions do not automatically create new or better public value, nor do they share this value in an equal manner. It is often the case that such solutions fail to meet the needs of end users and that a great many people are not reached by them. In short, new solutions do not automatically bridge the gap between failing systems and the daily lives and experiences of those who badly need these services..

<span>Social innovation</span>: beyond the hype
Labsprint in Amsteldorp, Amsterdam

Maker: Kennisland

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At the level of European policymaking++European policyRead more about the European social innovation policy. , social innovation refers to new ideas, products and services addressing urgent and complex social questions such as ageing populations, immigration and youth unemployment. This policy finds practical expression in a wide range of smart solutions, often devised by social entrepreneurs or highly-educated citizens. Examples may include a retirement home equipped with the latest technological gadgets or an international job vacancies website for unemployed youth. There is no shortage of creativity. But do these solutions deliver enough value to place more vulnerable people in an optimal position to grow and develop too?

Kennisland believes that we must look beyond this trend for new solutions. New solutions do not automatically create new or better public value, nor do they share this value in an equal manner. New solutions often fail to develop further than the level of small-scale experiments as they encounter resistance within institutions and organisations. This means that laws and organisational processes do not innovate at the same pace. It is also often the case that such solutions fail to meet the needs of end users and that a great many people are not reached by them. New solutions do not necessarily turn the focus of discussion towards underlying opinions, values or ingrained patterns of behaviour, while these are often the core of the problem. In short, new solutions do not automatically bridge the gap between failing systems and the daily lives and experiences of those who badly need these services.

The Netherlands can become an international front runner with a type of social innovation that aims to bridge the gap between systems (institutes, laws, rules, procedures) and the social environment of citizens in a smarter and better waySocial innovation should bridge the gap between systems and the social environment of citizens in a smarter and better way.++Lab MattersMore about this argument? Read “Four common omissions in the labbed lands” (section 3) in the paper ‘Lab Matters: Challening the practice of Social Innovation Laboratories’.. Social innovation is about processes that create economic and social value through new, non-everyday forms of collaboration. This includes devoting special attention to how we can prevent and deal with antisocial innovation (unintended or negative consequences of innovations) and how we can share and multiply newly created value most effectively.

Social innovation must therefore be more ambitiously interpreted than the current solution-focussed innovation trend in the Netherlands and Europe has shown to date. The approach taken must also be more thorough: politicians, service-providing bodies and citizens must start working together. In practice, this means that Kennisland establishes new forms of collaboration in which service providers, policy makers and end users play a role in designing and implementing an innovation process.Kennisland establishes new forms of collaboration in which service providers, policy makers and end users play a role in designing and implementing an innovation process. In this way, a process is created in which the parties involved are able to exert influence on the end result in an equal manner.

As regards our projects in practice, this means that we develop, try out and (where successful) scale up new strategies for change, learning and evaluation methods and organisational forms. We set up (inter)national learning networks in which theories and ideas about social innovation are highlighted. We publish our insights, points for improvement and reflections about and for this field of study worldwide.

In the field of social innovation we work together with partners such as HivosEuropean Centre for Living Technology, InWithForward, Waag Society, Pakhuis de Zwijger, SIX, EUCLID Network, the municipalities of Amsterdam and Dordrecht and the Dutch Ministery of the Interior.

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