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Positioning of social invention centres

By neptune

Positioning of a Social Invention Centre

Social inventions are the first time creations of laws, organizations and procedures that affect the ways people relate to themselves and others individually or collectively. Social innovations are inventions that have been introduced for the first time in an organization, thus an invention may become an innovation in thousands of organizations.

The purpose of a social invention centre is to create solutions to the social needs or problems of a large organization such as a company or government department. They typically report to senior management and their research is influential in framing new policies, programs and projects. They are well-funded and staffed by specialists and may have field research stations. Government departments representing health, agriculture, mining, and fisheries typically have extensive laboratories because they know that research is clearly important to furthering their policies, programs and services. The social departments, on the other hand, have generally not recognized the need to invent new methods of addressing the needs and problems of their clients. To a large extent they believe that adjusting policies and renaming programs will serve them adequately.

The social departments do have a grants and contribution fund to support worthy and relevant projects but they do not exercise a follow-up function to learn from these projects. They need to have their own social invention centres to invent new methods that will make them more effective in achieving their goals.

Social invention centres reporting directly to senior management stand in sharp contrast to small local experimental projects that may take place in conjunction with one or two local offices. These projects may be funded in part by the department or, perhaps more frequently, by foundations and other well-wishers. Because they are so small and isolated from senior management their inventions seldom gain the attention of the policy-makers and therefore, regardless how stellar their results there is very little likelihood that any will be adopted by the department. This is a pity because there are many idealistic social innovators working in hand-to-mouth agencies hoping that their projects will be recognized and scaled up in the organization.

Stu.conger@sympatico.ca