Five Good Ideas

Five Good Ideas about Social Innovation

Published on 08/02/2012

The purpose of social innovation should be to substantially improve social and economic justice, otherwise it’s not worth it. Social innovation challenges traditional assumptions and strengthens the problem-solving capacity of future generations. It is not just a new law or program or funding stream. New techniques, technologies and methodologies don’t in themselves guarantee significant change. Social innovation profoundly shifts cultural attitudes, habits, norms, relationships, hierarchy, values and the story we tell about each other.

Five Good Ideas

Social innovation –

  1. Starts with passionate amateurs
  2. Marries the past and future
  3. Does not have a dress code
  4. Goes better with belonging
  5. Has unintended consequences

Five Good Resources

  1. Anything by Frances Westley. The best introduction to her work is Getting to Maybe: How the World Has Changed (Random House, 2006), co-authored with Brenda Zimmerman and Michael Quinn Patton.
  2. John Elkington and his team at Volans are at the leading edge of thinking about social innovation. Check out their website and their recent report Future Quotient.
  3. Ezio Manzini is a leading European thinker about design, social innovation and sustainability. Check out his blog. Here is a link to a long but inspiring video of a recent presentation in Australia. SIG will be bringing him to Torontothis spring. Keep in touch at
  4. Adam Kahane has practical insights and proven strategies to improve our ability to work with allies and colleagues as well as strangers and opponents. His latest book, Power and Love: a theory and practice of social change (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2010). Read his approach to change-labs.
  5. The Long Now Foundation hopes to provide a counterpoint to today’s accelerating culture and help make long-term thinking more common. Their most majestic project is the Clock of the Long Now – a clock designed to tick for 10,000 years but will only tell the time if you power it.

Al Etmanski

President, PLAN

Al is an author, blogger, advocate and social entrepreneur specializing in innovative, multi-sector solutions to complex societal challenges. He is currently a partner in the J. W. McConnell Family Foundation’s Social Innovation Generation (SIG). SIG is dedicated to scaling up innovative solutions that solve deeply rooted social problems and to exploring new methods of financing in the social sector. Al is an Ashoka fellow and a faculty member of John McKnight’s Asset Based Community Development Institute (ABCD) and a Vancity Community Investment fellow. He is Chair of the BC Government’s new Advisory Council on Social Entrepreneurship. He is co-founder of Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network, a network that assists families across Canadaand globally to address the financial and social well-being of relatives with a disability, particularly after their parents die. He proposed and led the successful campaign to establish the world’s first savings plan for people with disabilities – the Registered Disability Savings Plan (