Posted by: millumino | October 21, 2009

Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship

It is human nature to strive to find meaning and purpose in our lives and to strive to improve not only ourselves, but  the way we do business, the tools we use  and the way we live.   Innovation is the thought or action which allows new thoughts or things to evolve beyond our current standards and hence produces those very improvements we strive for.

Corporate and small business innovation leads to new products and technologies, new business processes, new ways of empowering and rewarding individuals, new ways of enhancing customer service and  new ways of growing our markets.

Technology continues to evolve in exciting ways:  products are faster, cheaper, smaller  and provide infinitely more useful applications.  Technological innovation provides new health, transport, communication and other technologies which immeasurably enhance our lives.  Web 2.0 and cloud computing has provided new ways to integrate, network and communicate. Personally I wonder how I survived, or kept in touch with family, friends and business connections without my iPhone, Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and blogging applications. Now with SaaS applications  and my iPhone I can run my business from home, Ayers Rock or the Eiffel Tower.

However it is innovation in societies which is most exciting.  Social innovation is leading  to a fundamental shift in values resulting in significant global gains. The Global Financial Crisis has caused a global rethink of values and an explosion in the number of social and philanthropic entrepreneurs who are making a significant and passionate contribution to society.

Social entrepreneurship is now one of the fastest growing sectors in post-graduate business education.  INSEAD now offers MBA’s and PhDs in social entrepreneurship as do numerous other leading educational institutions. The Skoll Foundation defines social entrepreneurship as pioneering “…  innovative and systemic approaches for meeting the needs of the marginalized, the disadvantaged and the disenfranchised – populations that lack the financial means or political clout to achieve lasting benefit on their own.”

Technology combined with entrepreneurship is providing innovative, constructive solutions to the social discord caused by  poverty, fear, ignorance, war, environmental degradation etc.   There are simply thousands of examples of investment in humanitarian businesses and community organisations whose raison d’etre is making a contribution to the society and the environment in which we live.

Organisations such as Kiva are helping to alleviate poverty by matching non-profit “investors”  with borrowers who would otherwise have no means to  establish self-sufficiency. “Kiva is the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend to unique entrepreneurs around the globe”.

CDI, the Centre for Digital Inclusion, was started by Rodrigo Baggio when he was still at school and noticed the disparity in access to technology in his home city of Rio de Janeiro.  His initiative to  help disadvantaged people use technology to improve their communities and their lives has now evolved to providing “753 “Technology and Civic Engagement “ schools in 10 countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia. CDI has helped transform more than 1 million lives.”

Philanthropic foundations and responsible corporations are also enabling innovative and sustainable health, agricultural, education and economic initiatives in the poorest communities and countries, as well as assisting the under-privileged in economically advanced countries. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has global initiatives to improve health, develop agriculture and improve access to technology and education. They also have a significant program to provide education and a start in life for under-privileged students in the USA.

Social and technological innovations provide us with the means to achieve meaning and purpose and make our lives worth living by contributing  within our  own communities and to society as a whole.

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