Social Innovation simply refers to the creation and implementation of new solutions to social problems, that are more effective or efficient than existing solutions.
It can take the form of new products, services, models, markets or processes. Crucially, social innovation seeks not only to resolve the immediate social problem but also enhances society’s capacity to act in future.
However, the sector, as with society in general, is facing into an uncertain future. The financial crisis and accompanying recession have resulted in severe cuts to public expenditure, a trend that shows no sign of reversing in the foreseeable future.
In the past we’ve run SI Camp which puts problem solvers in the room with groups and organisations with a social problem to solve, and we’ve invested in Fermanagh Trust’s work around community benefit and community ownership in wind energy developments. We commissioned and published two key pieces of research – Growing Social Innovation in NI and Turning Up the Dial.
As well as this, we funded the first phase of the Young Foundation’s Amplify NI programme, which has gone on to get major funding from the Big Lottery Fund.
CultureTECH ran the Trust’s Techies in Residence programme, which sees tech experts embedded in the Northern Ireland Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise Sector to help find innovative tech solutions to social problems. You can find out more about that here.
All this is culminating in our latest and most ambitious initiative to date – ‘Social Innovation NI’ : a ‘one stop shop’ through which social innovations in Northern Ireland can access practical and financial support to help create a Social Innovation Ecosystem in Northern Ireland - whether brand new ideas, prototypes needing testing, or proven, transformative approaches that are ready to be implemented at scale.
Want to know what Social Innovation or #TechForGood looks like in practice? Click on one of our Pinterest boards (online pinboard) below compiled by Paul Braithwaite