ISSN: 1998 - 4162

JISR - Management and Social Sciences & Economics Journal Contents

Volume 11, Number 2, July 2013


Social innovation although is a decades old concept, it gained significant momentum in last ten years.Various universities and research institutes are shifting the focus of their research projects and funding towards the result-oriented, socially centered, and economically viable activities. Major emphasis is laid to bring change in society and improve both the economic condition and quality of life of individuals. Therefore, this notion provides the solutions to the cross-disciplinary problems deeply rooted in social sector instead of business-related profit-oriented organizations or technological innovation through R&D alone.

Social innovation as defined by Stanford Social Innovation Review is “a novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable or just than existing solutions, and for which the value created accrues primarily to society as a whole rather than private individuals.” Some leading authors defined it as an “innovation for the social purpose in the form of social entrepreneurship or enterprise.” Murray et al., posited that new ideas (products, services and models) simultaneously meet social needs and create new relationships or collaborations. In other words, these are innovations that are both good for society and enhance society’s capacity to act. Another prominent author put forward it as “an initiative, product, process or program that profoundly changes the basic routines, resource and authority flows or beliefs of any social system.” The term social innovation is much broader and includes both the established concepts of ‘social entrepreneurship’ and ‘social enterprise’ which were used earlier to elicit the role of nonprofit organizations by excluding public and for-profit organizations.

How do social innovations are perceived, created, adopted and diffused in given segment of a society at a particular time? One simple way to answer this complicated question is to trace the history of social innovations and be cognizant of the evolution of social innovations in the past. A historical review reveals many unprecedented examples like: fair trade, microfinance, community-centered finance, newfangled public and private partnerships, and socially responsible investments etc., which have shifted the roles and responsibilities of the triadgovernment, NGOs, and profit-making organizations. The businesses are supporting the government and community through their CSR initiatives and activities; NGOs are developing new partnerships with the community and businesses instead of just relying on donor agencies and their partners are playing active role rather than just being the watchdog; whereas governments have moved away from their antagonist roles of control and regulations to collaboration and support.

Profit-oriented business organizations strive to capture the markets to maximize their profits for the survival and growth. Therefore, underprivileged segments of the society are either ignored or neglected by the marketing strategists to produce goods and services as per their needs and reach. This gap is usually filled up by philanthropists to increase the purchasing power through charity or by government via subsidizing the existing prices. Income support programs, food stamps and other charity by the society also attempt to reduce this fissure. However, these steps appeared to be a temporary solution and do not bring any socio-economic uplift in life of the people targeted for it. There is a dire need for government agencies, business, and social sector to come up with social innovations in order to fulfill the needs of underserved sector more efficiently and effectively. It will result in sustenance and improve the quality of life across all segments of the society. These hybrid models of social innovations can be adapted through indigenization from all over the world and can be implemented successfully by taking all stakeholders and communities into confidence to serve.

The implications of social innovations are far reaching, nonetheless, policy makers, donors, and practitioners aspiring to bring the social change, especially to lower income strata of the society are required to come up with localized collective innovative models. If the concept is itself recognized and embraced fully by respective stakeholders then it may lead to the trend of dissolving cross-sector boundaries and help in exchanging ideas and values across different forums of philanthropists and public-private sources.

Basic and applied research by academia and practitioners, in the different areas of social innovation, can capture the full spectrum of research topics from conceptualization of construct to the application and benefits. The research will then have a direct impact on the life of underprivileged people and render a great help to the humanity.

Dr. Muhammad Zaki Rashidi


July 1, 2014

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