Social innovation can simply be understood as ‘new ideas that work which address social or environmental needs’. It may occur as a result of addressing new needs, reframing circumstances to make unmet social needs clear and urgent, or changing organisational structures to grasp new opportunities to add social value. New programmes, models, or ways of thinking – sometimes a combination of all three – may be the result.
Social innovation is more than just invention. Diffusion or the scale of ideas is an integral part of making its impact effective, as is co-ordinated action by a wide range of people and organisations spanning social, governmental and business sectors. While social innovation is not synonymous with social entrepreneurship, it represents an important strategy to pilot and test the models we need to deal with failures and disappointments of the past, as well as emerging issues. But gaps remain in the understanding and support for social innovation.
The 2007 Forum aimed to help define social innovation, raise its profile and encourage debate about its importance and practice.