Be The Spark – A Call for Social Innovation

LeadershipWe all have a sense of the enormity of our world’s challenges.

The news informs us each day of our social inequalities, our superfluous violence, and our rapidly changing climate. We see the problems in our immediate lives and we feel fearful of the future.

We know that each of us is complicit in this mess simply by participating in the world we are born into, and by following the paths we have been told to follow. The issues seem insurmountable and often we retreat into just working with what is, as best we can.

At some point we may awaken and see that we live in an interdependent world, sharing each others problems. And when we wake up, we feel a responsibility to help and are faced with so many choices.

This is where I think the perspective of social innovation can help to guide our actions.

The Stanford Business School’s Centre for Social Innovation describes the concept as, “A social innovation is a novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just – than current solutions. The value created accrues primarily to society rather than to private individuals.”

Looking at our endeavours through the lens of social innovation guides us to create social value through our ideas, solutions and processes in addition to benefits for individuals and organizations.

Social Innovation does not have to be a big change. In the continual process of refining and building our organizations, it is often the small adjustments that have the most significant impact. Reviewing your organizations’ activities with a social innovation perspective may reveal a subtle shift that can be transformative.

Here are some actions that can help start the social innovation shift in your organization:

  1. Set conditions by building common intent.
  2. Structure the issue or design question with data from collective sensing, research, and results.
  3. Generate ideas with proposals and idea generation sessions, giving space for new ideas to emerge from the process.
  4. Test ideas with prototypes, experiments, workshops, and pilot programs.
  5. Implement ideas inside a sustainable context with room for them to evolve and be adjusted to keep serving the intention of the established common intent.
  6. Share the social innovation with related nonprofit, public, and private sectors to contribute to a replicable model that can transform systems and be of service to a wider community.

Social Innovation relies on the exchange of ideas and values, shifts in roles and relationships, and integrating private capital with public and philanthropic support. To truly understand and solve our challenges the nonprofit, public, and private sectors must work together with our collective good as the outcome.

About the Author

Alesha Hayes is the Business Development Coordinator for the Indigenous Perspectives Society –Creating Excellence through Training and Leadership. A non-indigenous ally, Alesha was born and raised in Secwepemc territory and now enjoys life in Lkwungen territory on southern Vancouver Island. For more information on Cultural Perspectives Training email her at and visit