Intermediaries are individuals, organisations, networks or spaces which connect people, ideas and resources. They can take a variety of forms – some incubate innovations by providing a ‘safe’ space for collaboration and experimentation; some connect entrepreneurs with the supports they need to grow their innovations; and others help to spread innovations by developing networks and collaborations.
We’ve suggested that much social innovation comes from linking up the ‘bees’ – the individuals and small organisations that are buzzing with ideas and imagination – and the ‘trees’, the bigger institutions that have power and money but are usually not so good at thinking creatively. On their own the bees can’t achieve impact. On their own the trees find it hard to adapt.
Intermediaries can help to link them up. To be effective they need to reach across the boundaries that divide sectors, disciplines and fields. They need to attract innovative, entrepreneurial people: the job of intermediation needs to be highly creative. And they need to be fluent in many languages – able to translate from the language of everyday needs to the very different languages of policy makers or investors for example.