Social Innovation Summer School : Vocab Test

I went to the SIX Summer School organised by the Young Foundation in partnership with Mondragon (mik) last week. It was a gathering of people with a fantastically varied set of experiences and skills who descended on sunny San Sebastian from all over the place – but all of whom had one thing in common – an involvement in social innovation. (Whether they really knew it or not!)

What exactly social innovation IS seemed to be less clear to me as the days went by… and in a way seemed less important than the fact that ‘something’ is happening in the way society arranges itself. (Plus there was a rigorous social programme which meant that many things seemed less clear as the days went by…)

However, Charlie Leadbeter had a good go at summing things up at school’s close – saying that it’s all about doing things ‘with’ people, rather than ‘to’ or ‘for’ them.

Whether that’s a good summary of ‘social innovation’, I am truly unqualified to say! ;)

However I do think that its a good vocabulary for talking about much of the change we’re now seeing in terms of government, power structures and commerce – and of course, quite clearly, on the web.

We often stop ourselves from seeing through to the core of a system by building up vocabularies and terminologies which are quite restrictive and precise to define that system or driver. Of course there’s a valid purpose for this drive to tightly define our meaning – but sometimes we say ‘participative process’, when we just mean ‘with people’.

Anyway – it was three days very well spent – lots of room for thinking, new ideas, and most importantly meeting people from all over the world who are active in this field of social innovation – doing an astonishing variety of different things.

Here are just a few examples for you. There were many other very interesting projects too which I will be linking to in later posts :

Aussie-based young people’s org: Act Now

Brazil-based Sitawi : providing capital for social enterprises

MindLab – innovation in public administration- based in Denmark

Kennisland/Knowledgeland – Dutch thinktank that runs digital pioneers programme

The Hope Institute in S.Korea – making citizens’ small ideas for change make bigger impact


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