On Thursday of last week, representing SSSC, I joined a group of people from the world of Scottish Government, NHS, Social Work, Social Enterprise and private social organisations, at The Melting Pot, for a day of conversation and activity around the question:
How can we put social innovation to work for the people of Scotland?
The pitch I received was: “Join a conversation to explore this question, make new connections, and be a part of creating the conditions for social innovation to flourish in Scotland!”
What is Social Innovation…?
Funded by Scottish Government, The Melting Pot – Scotland’s Centre for Social Innovation – are “…opening up a national conversation on how to meet the challenges and opportunities surrounding social innovation in Scotland; how to enable and support social innovation so that it fuels positive change across all aspects of Scottish society and economy. The results of these events will help inform policy thinking across Scotland ahead of preparations for a new wave of European Structural funding.”
It was a busy day of workshopping and conversation – with welcome, strategically placed, breaks to chat to the other attendees and make new connections. The Melting Pot facilitate using the ‘Art of Hosting’. I haven’t had chance to Google or investigate further but I understand it to be about creating the appropriate environment for the task at hand – just as you would if hosting a party. anyone familiar with ‘good’ collaborative and visualisation techniques would have been as comfortable with the approach and activities as I was.
The aims of the conversation were:
- To share learning about what might be meant by social innovation and what is already going on across Scotland
- To build a vision collectively about how social innovation can be put to work for the people of Scotland, and to begin to address the conditions that need to be put in place for this vision to be realised
- To build and extend connections and networks between social innovators and influencers
- In these ways, to build a stronger basis for moving forward and maximising ability to ‘grow’ social innovation across the country, and for that growth to make a difference to the people of Scotland
Social Innovation is… in need of definition?
The first session of the morning was spent in small groups (of 5/6) attempting to answer the question, “Social Innovation is…”. The challenge is that both of those words can be very, very broad by definition. I’m of the opinion that ’Social Innovation’ is about understanding and agreeing on the outcomes, benefits and successes within a specific context – within an organisation; within the confines of a project; or as part of the values and vision of a team of people. If we know what we mean by it – in our context – then maybe we’ll be clear on what we expect from it, and (most importantly) we’ll recognise successful social innovation when we see it.
Social Innovation is… in the small things.
The potential of social innovation is huge, and so it rings true that the ‘cover-all’ term be huge too. But while the impact has the potential to be huge, insight and understanding is to be found in the small things. People not organisations; increments and not broad strokes.
Social Innovation is… going to take a while..?!
The day at The Melting Pot was a positive start at what, potentially, could be a very long process. It would be great if the next step was to synthesise the ideas from the day to create themes under which participants, and perhaps a wider online community, could submit practical project/initiative ideas to prototype and pilot.
A common denominator of people interested in this kind of work is a desire to get-our-hands-dirty. Let’s dig in with the people we aim to serve through this process and find out what are they looking for; what needs to change; and how do we make an impact?
Social Innovation is… wrong..!?
Of course listening is important. It’s essential. But sooner or later there needs to be action; inclusive, collaborative participation to gather as open and honest a conversation as possible, upon which to act and make a difference. But. Reserve the right to be wrong. Innovation brings a certain amount of risk and no one ever created anything radical knowing ‘beyond certainty’ that it was going to succeed. So learn to recover from risk, not avoid it.
Social Innovation is… on Twitter
But then what isn’t?
You can follow @TheMeltingPotEd, and for your convenience clicking on #NationalConv will take you directly to the feed of the soundbites from the day and help you catch up with the conversation.
Images from top to bottom: 1. The Question, 2. Reading our letter from 2050, 3. Pledges from the end of the day, 4. Reflections no stories of social innovation.