For most people, the first thing that usually comes to mind with the word “innovation” is any creation produced by a company that took the world by storm — causing growth and increased revenue.

However, innovation is more than that…

It not only adds value to the organization and its customers. It also helps businesses thrive and contributes to the progress and development of society.

In this article, you will learn more about social innovation and understand how this terrific process can benefit your company.

Let’s get started.

Social innovation  —  What it is, and what it is not

Let’s define what social innovation is and what it isn’t:

What is social innovation?

Social innovation is defined as the creation and enactment of innovative, workable responses to environmental or social issues.

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It is anything that addresses current social demands better than any efforts previously implemented to respond to a specific problem.

Social innovation lasts long and has a large-scale impact. It can be implemented by both the government and private institutions.

However, this type of innovation is traditionally done by non-profit sectors.

What is NOT social innovation?

Social innovation is confused with many different terms — four of which include social enterprise, corporate social innovation, social entrepreneurship, and corporate social responsibility.

Let’s dive a bit deeper:

  1. Social innovation is not the same as a social enterprise. Social innovation is an idea, a product, a service, or an approach that introduces change, outperforms existing solutions, and benefits society. A social enterprise, on the other hand, refers to the business model, which means that it optimizes both social and financial returns.
  2. Corporate social innovation is business and social innovation in one. Companies that incorporate social innovation into their commercial activities are referred to as corporate social innovation or CSI. This may be viewed as a continual strategy that strives to remedy societal concerns and build on existing approaches.
  3. Social innovation is different from social entrepreneurship. Instead of focusing on the solution, social entrepreneurship focuses on the problem. To guarantee longevity and result, social entrepreneurs think the workarounds should be co-designed with the community. They don’t depend just on innovation because they understand that effect is the social sector’s bottom line. They demonstrate implications and desire scale, making them innovative as well as rigorous in their outlook.
  4. Social innovation is NOT corporate social responsibility. Corporate social responsibility warrants an institution’s activities to be socially ethical and useful. This approach is often divided into four categories: economic responsibility. the environment, philanthropy, and human rights.

Why is social innovation important?

Because of trade and commercialism, the world has become so connected that one country’s socio-economic issues might affect another.

Problems with economic development are rampant, and other challenges that spring from it — like hunger, financial insecurity, and political upheaval — are also experienced by different nations across the globe.

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These societal challenges produce commercial possibilities, so they must be resolved or handled in some way, and social innovation is the way to do that.

Provided that every country strives for sustainable economic and social development, different factors that contribute to a financial and moral environment are increasingly recognized.

Hence, capable institutions should take an innovative approach to address contemporary social concerns, which is what social innovation does:

Social innovation introduces a new perspective that entails how for-profit organizations and social enterprises can help in responding to society’s difficulties.

Simply put, social innovation contributes a new element to innovation while maintaining socioeconomic development.

What are the benefits of social innovation?

Social innovation is good by itself. But when incorporated with business goals, it provides financial benefits.

In essence, refining and broadening such initiatives bring long-term business advantages.

1. Opportunities for business development

Handling emerging issues in the environment and society is beneficial for companies considering how innovation brings business development.

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Organizations often address challenges by modifying their products in service while taking into account the region’s facilities and limited purchasing power.

2. Enhanced brand image

Social innovation holds businesses liable for their activities while also making them more susceptible to the sentiments and perception of the public.

Nowadays, clients want more from companies other than their products and services.

They want to support brands with a culture that aligns with their principles, convictions, and beliefs.

Organizations can either choose to act on this and gain more supporters or fall far from the competition by failing to meet contemporary societal requirements.

3. Competitive employees

Studies show that employees want to feel a sense of purpose in their careers. They want to work with meaning and commitment.

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As these factors make them more dedicated to their jobs, they become more focused, resourceful, and innovative.

This is what makes corporate social innovation a tremendous tool for acquiring and engaging talented and competitive individuals.

4. Robust supply chain

Innovating on your supply chain can give you a stabilized approach to getting the raw resources that you need.

When you progressively address customer requirements, your company’s brand image enhances, which in turn warms you up as a reliable partner for various organizations in meeting their needs like supporting small suppliers in the vicinity.

This strategic alliance is what gives you the ability to scale and gain a robust supply chain.

What are some examples of social innovation?

Here are some of the most popular and renowned examples of social innovation across the world:

  1. Route for charging e-vehicles. Sweden constructed a route that charges electric vehicles as they travel. The roadways are inlaid with an electric rail, and e-vehicles may charge their batteries by dropping a retractable arm affixed to the car’s bottom. Because the power lies below the surface, the roadways are safe to walk on.
  2. The first 3D community in the world. Mexico began the world’s first three-dimensional community in the Tabasco region. The houses in this 3D neighborhood were built to substitute homes created by impoverished locals in an effort to protect them from earthquakes.
  3. Sun-cleaned water. According to a report issued in a scientific journal called Chem, scientists found a substance that could eliminate disease-causing germs in the water. It acts like a magnet in purifying water, removing dangerous germs, pollutants, and bacteria through a specific photocatalyst and the sunlight.
  4. Addressing the gender wage gap. The income difference between men and women is sometimes attributed to the time away from work that women take to raise kids. However, the advent of paid paternity leave might lower this substantially by allowing women to stay in the organization as their husbands look after and tend to their young children alternatively. In Iceland and Finland, men and women are entitled to equal family leave under the law. Now, other companies — such as Facebook, Netflix, Spotify, and Etsy — are taking the initiative to provide extensive paid paternity leave.
  5. Mixture for growing crops in the desert. Desert Control, a Norwegian business, has devised a mixture that can be applied over desert sand to allow it to keep water and produce vegetables. To achieve this outcome, they spray a liquid nano clay combination of water and clay into the sand only half a meter deep. This method has the potential to improve food supply in harsher regions and fight desertification.
  6. Eco-friendly concrete alternative. Students from the University of the Philippines pursuing civil engineering produced a concrete alternative out of glass, fly ash, a common rock found on campus, and other recyclable elements. Tests indicated that this eco-friendly concrete was comparable in strength and durability and that it performed better on an environmental scale than typical concrete (composed of cement, gravel, and water).
  7. Edible Forest. Atlanta’s municipal government bought America’s largest edible forest which spans 7 acres and features over 100 fruit and nut trees that locals may gather for food and cultivation via planter boxes. Programs like this give low-income individuals with accessible fruits and vegetables. In the following years, the city hopes to have 86 percent of its citizens living within half a mile of a fresh food supply.
  8. Coffee-made car parts. Ford and McDonald’s are collaborating to bioengineer automobile components out of coffee grounds — an initiative that reuses food waste and requires less petroleum — resulting in lighter than typical automobile parts.
  9. AI trash management. JD.com is assisting residents of Shanghai, China, in following trash management regulations. People may log in to the app and use it to take a photo of their garbage. The AI software will then inform them if the rubbish is recyclable, moist, dry, or toxic.
  10. Energy recycling cell. Hong Kong University researchers have devised a method to reuse the heat generated by conditioning exhausts, ovens, and computers. They’ve created a low-cost, customizable energy recycling cell that can turn extra heat into power for subsequent use.

Meet social needs better with social innovation

Get started on social innovation today. Gather your team and discuss the most prominent social and environmental issues in your area.

You can begin your innovation campaign with Accept Mission and complete all four stages to get started — preparation, challenge, selection, and report.

Actually, we designed a step-by-step approach on how to collect and select ideas from a target audience you can use with social innovation.

Grab a copy today of our tips for organizing successful innovation campaigns ebook and learn how to get started from scratch.