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How to kill social innovation in 5 easy steps

This opinion piece is about 8 years old

Claire Carpenter on how to nurture and encourage social change makers

Social innovators are often the disrupters, the ones who swim against the tide and question the status quo. We may find them uncomfortable and challenging but these people are also inspiring, determined and resilient.

Can you pass the social Innovator personality test? How many of the following core skills and qualities do you have? Making connections, causing disruptions, having persistence and a critical mindset, clarity of vision, courage of your convictions, an ability to learn and reflect, to take risks and experiment, question results, have focus but also openness, and of course – the ability to sell.

During 2014 The Melting Pot asked people about social innovation and how it might flourish in Scotland.

Gatherings took place from Inverness to Edinburgh. We dived into understanding the cultural conditions that help or hinder people, communities and organisations of all sizes who have a passion for creating solutions to our pressing eco-social challenges.

This is what we discovered. First, spot those disrupters and put them down – go on, tell them their mad ideas won’t work. These non-conformers who wish to do something different are a nuisance with their radical notions, their dreams are too big, too complex. They don’t know what they’re doing and it will certainly never make any money!

Secondly, don’t assist those disruptors, or offer them a chance to collaborate. Keep yourself to yourself. Don’t move out of your comfort zone, talk to, or, help anyone! Don’t go out of your way to make connections or introductions, you might catch something, like a scary new idea!

How to kill social innovation in 5 easy steps

For social innovation to thrive in Scotland, we must create the right culture

Thirdly, seek out the answers to our societal problems from another place, somewhere like London, New York or Shanghai. Those disruptive ideas under your nose, on your doorstep, the ones that take account of the cultural fit can’t be any good can they? And anyway, it’s more fun to go on international jollies (sorry I mean learning journeys).

Fourth, never accept anyone else’s wisdom, or seek to learn form them. What do they know anyway? There’s no point taking time out of your busy schedule to reflect on your learning, you’ve just got to keep doing at all costs.

Lastly, work from your bedroom, alone. You can’t afford anywhere nice and professional to work anyway, not on what is invested into the social innovation pipeline. Yes we need jobs, but they can only be produced form companies that focus on economic growth not social capital.

Do you agree? No? Neither do I. So, forget all that. For social innovation to thrive in Scotland, we must create the right culture.

We must, firstly, encourage, literally lend courage to, those seeking to address inequality, those who are questioning the status quo, creating disruption and taking risks.

Secondly, foster connections, creativity and the generation of ideas amongst innovators in all sectors. Enabling genuine participation and collaboration across sectors releases socially innovative ideas.

Thirdly, cultivate local solutions where social innovators can work with communities to define and co-design solutions within their community context.

Fourth, create safe places and spaces for learning, reflection and sharing all the stories: the successes, the tricky moments, the failures, the highs the lows of experience.

And lastly, invest in social innovation to provide the physical resources to enable social innovators to work with focus, purpose, determination and persistence.

Read the full results of our investigation into social innovation.

The Melting Pot is Scotland’s Centre for Social Innovation and our Social Innovation Incubation Award programme supports disrupters who want to get their ideas off the ground.

Claire Carpenter is director and founder of the Melting Pot.



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