So many problems arise in our societies, yet so little and in most cases so incapable are our solutions. Understanding social innovation is crucial.
Social innovation refers to new ideas that work in meeting social goals. Or a narrower definition, “innovative activities and services that are motivated by the goal of meeting a social need and that are predominantly developed and diffused through organizations whose primary purposes are social. –Geoff, Tucker, Ali and Sanders in Social Innovation: What It Is, Why It Matters and How It Can Be Accelerated.
Drastic changes in our world bring into question our solutions on offer. And because it (our world) continues to change, it becomes imperative to then consider ways of cushioning ourselves from the blistering winds of global climate change, unstable economies and the such. Evidently our problems, such as unemployment, political unrests and the likes, have gotten worse and our current systems are unable to remedy our situation.
At the same time, social innovation isn’t a new thing. Unprecedented deterioration in our world intensifies its use. We need to exploit much of our readily available resources.
How can we best harness social innovation for the development of Lesotho?
In order to answer such a question, one must first understand pressing problems that pertain to Lesotho. Lesotho individually as a country, though great care must be taken. Simplistic (generalities) answers may prove inadequate.
We need not assume that what happens in many developing countries, is equally our problem. We need simple and specific answers, but identifiable answers. Some research must precede our countering efforts, if we’re to fully capitalize on social innovation.
But first of all, I believe what we need are more pronounced transformative approaches to dealing with our present state. Approaches that focus on socio-economic, socio-political as well as socio-ecological transformations.
According to Jan Vranken in Social Innovation, there are three (3) approaches to social innovation namely:
- Social demand approach: social innovations are innovations that respond to social demands that are traditionally not addressed by the market or existing institutions and are directed towards vulnerable groups in society.
- Societal challenge approach: social innovations are innovations that respond to those societal challenges in which the boundary between social and economic blurs, and are directed towards society as a whole.
- Systemic (not: systematic) changes approach: social innovations are innovations that contribute to the reform of society in the direction of a more participative arena where empowerment and learning are both sources and outcomes of well-being.
The Participatory Initiative for Social Accountability (PISA) is a typical example of the third approach. This is because PISA is a platform. A platform that helps people to know about their rights and responsibilities pertaining to the development of the nation. People get civic education and dialogues between citizens with those in authority are made possible. The underlying idea is a quest for a more socially-inclusive society.
It is apparent that social innovation is in itself multifaceted. That is, various stakeholders need to be sourced, who will provide with a wealth of ideas and strengths. Both governmental and non-governmental parties should be as equally involved. Social innovation, has always been thought of not only as about newness but more about addressing real problems.
Although social innovation may take place within government, within the for-profit sector, within the nonprofit sector (civil society, the third sector), social innovation implies crosscutting the traditional borders and thus the networks linking different sectors (from temporary partnerships to governance regimes) and different disciplines (sociology, economics, organization studies, political science, social geography, history) which provide the types of platforms that are needed to facilitate such cross-sector collaborative social innovation. – Jan Vranken
Fostering social innovation can transform both the political and economic landscapes of our society. The government should invest in initiatives that promote understanding of it. Clear understanding of this, will translate into proper and perhaps the most effective adoption of social innovation. The already existing social innovative activities should be intensified and/or duplicated. Businesses should contribute as equally, through what has come to be known as social entrepreneurship.