A new community of social innovators.

BLOG: Social change is hard; this we know. But it’s easier to achieve with fellow travellers. That’s why we have created the community of social innovators.

Ellis Jones  •  Tuesday July 4, 2017
Social Impact
social innovators

Change is hard – but it is easier with smart, connected and supportive people around you.

After searching for communities of social innovators practising across disciplines, we came up empty. So, we decided to try creating one, with its home base in the Realm of Possibilities.

On June 28th we held our first social innovators event.

A few snapshots of the night here.

Rhod Ellis-Jones introduced the agency and the purpose of the event to an eclectic mix of thinkers, innovators, specialists and corporate leaders. Among them were specialists and leading practitioners in business modelling and disruption, research and service design, philanthropy, CSR, wellbeing and organisational strategy.

Organisations represented were a brilliant mix: from consultancies to universities, large non-profits and foundations to ASX-listed corporations.

Elise Harper facilitated the Knowledge Cafe, an informal way to share diverse wisdom and gain an understanding of social innovation. Elise led by provoking thought on new ways to address entrenched and emerging social issues: using resources differently, re-defining the roles of different types of organisations, innovating services and projects to meet needs, and embracing change.

At four tables, an Ellis Jones staff member helped facilitate a different conversation topic. With a spirit of serious play, we debated the important stuff. Here are the outcomes (not bad for one hour, and 10 minutes at each table..!):

How can we better fund social impact projects?

  • Fund impact, not activity
  • Understand funding is a saving, not a cost
  • Develop “a soul tax” within a business to re-channel funds
  • Establish a social innovation department that offers services to NGO’s
  • Understand and communicate the impact – work with the beneficiaries

How can we better communicate the value of social innovation?

  • Have a clear definition of impact
  • Provide certainty – data in storytelling
  • Early adaptors need to build to a tipping point, rather than trying to convince everyone
  • Find language that different people can engage with
  • Find value that resonates with people
  • Use measurement as a foundation
  • Integrate into diverse fields of academic study

What techniques and tools could be used better in the process?

  • Human centred design and real co-design
  • Innovation structures to create freedom to fail (quickly)
  • Find harmony between humanising v systemising
  • Measure the total value of progress, not just economic growth
  • Use knowledge as currency – share insights
  • Use business tools for social purpose

What stands in the way of the impact you’re seeking?

  • Understanding of what impact is and defining it
  • People’s resistance to change
  • Entrenched views
  • Time and resources
  • Fear and risk
  • The need for research, measurable data and appropriate dialogue
  • Leadership – not a board

One of the best aspects of the night was the fearlessness of participants – almost all of whom had been practicing long enough to understand the challenges well. It was fantastic to see the connections made and the unique perspectives shared.

The agency was ready for this to fail but it feels like we’ve started something. Time will tell.

Three participants have been charged with setting agenda for the next installment.

So, if you are practising within social innovation and want to be a part of the new community of social innovators, email Elise at elise@ellisjones.com.au.