July 16, 2009

Social Innovation Exchange in Lisbon – in need of a framework?

Filed under: life..., projects — benmetz @ 3:09 pm

We are about halfway through the SIX summer school in Lisbon and I thought I’d catch my breath to flag up one theme that’s emerging from conversations and break out groups (well for me at least).

What do you get if you put 100 social innovators in a room?  A complete melting pot of ideas conceived or operating on a myriad of different levels, across the broadest range of sectors and with the greatest plethora of needs in order to move on and deliver value.  This is the overwhelming observation I’ve picked up in the day and a bit of the summer school so far.

So what’s needed to make sense of this?  And do we even need to make sense of it?

While it’s a great opportunity to listen and learn from a range of great thinkers and practitioners, and to steal from and contribute to some great work, I feel compelled to dampen the buzz and impose some structure to help us place ideas and initiatives in a framework that allows for comparison and thus healthy cross-fertilisation.

Maybe I’m a control freak but let’s use this summer school to identify and collectively embrace frameworks that support us all in comparing apples with apples rather than apples with UFO’s from a different dimension…

One framework that springs to mind is the Volans authored five-stage articulation of their “pathways to scale” process.  Understanding where an idea fits within the continuum articulated as Eureka, Experiment, Expansion, Ecology and Economy provides one way to understand where an idea is in its stage of development.  So suddenly we can learn from ideas next to us and just in front of us on this continuum.

Another framework was presented by Geoff Mulgan of the Young Foundation yesterday afternoon, identifying stages of development of social innovations that struck me a a useful framework to think about change.  First potential is identified, next this potential is tested, then it’s proven in practice and once proven it begins to learn from interaction in the world and adapts accordingly (gleaned from a paper written by Geoff called the process of social innovation).

Perhaps if we collectively instilled some discipline in identifying where we and our ideas are placed along such theoretical frameworks then we’d be able to make better use of our time together?  Or would such common language, frameworks, processes and theories squeeze the serendipity and inspiration out of such gatherings???


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