Social Innovator

What is a ‘social innovator’?

For me a social innovator is someone who is discontent with the status quo and uses their capacity for innovation and their sense of frustration or outrage to create something entirely new. Not that anyone is a social innovator in isolation – all innovation (whether social or any other) requires others with whom to dialogue, build on diversity and deliver.

I am equally interested in new kinds of organisational model – ones that are based on a commitment to a more sustainable, inclusive and integrated approach to living and working. These are forms of ‘social enterprise’ that (in my view) draw together the best of the business and the best of charitable models.

Typical ‘business’, with its primary focus on financial gain, and typical ‘charity’, with its tendency to breed dependence, seemed to me in their entirely different ways to be one-sided and unsatisfying. But both also had elements that were appealing – business by creating goods, services, innovation and growth and charitable ventures in their focus on people’s wellbeing, personal development and environmental stewardship.

Of course, some of the most exciting social enterprises and social entrepreneurship have arisen out of the most challenging situations. For example, in Bangladesh – one of the world’s poorest countries and one of the most vulnerable to the devastating effects of climate change – there is the remarkable Grameen Bank that has led the world in developing micro-credit and gone far beyond that in creating a range of self-sufficient social businesses run for the poor, by the poor.

“If we create the right environment, social business entrepreneurs can use market mechanisms to significant effect and can turn the market into an exciting place for fighting social battles in ever more innovative and effective ways. Let us get serious now about social business entrepreneurs. They can brighten up this gloomy world for us all.”
Muhammad Yunus, Director, Grameen Bank