Highlights 2017 – How has social innovation shifted and how has SIX contributed?

The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.

Abraham Lincoln 

It’s been another eventful year at SIX, with a growing team, activities and trainings all over the globe, alongside direction setting events featuring the most pioneering thinkers in the social innovation field. Below are some highlights of our contribution to the growing social innovation movement during 2017.  

  • Setting a direction for the next 10 years

2017 started with a rallying cry to progressive vision and thinking afresh. Charles Leadbeater reminded us of this as he closed the SIX Wayfinder, our landmark event which looked back at the last decade of social innovation to help us prepare for the next. In Geoff Mulan’s provocation, he set stretching goals for the next 10 years which make our movement and its tools match up to the difficult challenges ahead. 

And so, SIX begun 2017 by convening 160 leaders from over 34 countries attended from diverse backgrounds, to name some of the big questions for the next 10 years. The event, hosted by Nesta, and supported by UNDP, SiG,  TACSI, and the McConnell Foundation, was a call to action and  big ideas. As Charles Leadbeater reminded  us ‘This is our time; this is why the ideas here have such a big resonance. Be ambitious, be hopeful but be sure that what you’re doing can make a big difference. If you want to read more, please check out the content that was produced following the Wayfinder here

  • Increasing the flow of funding for innovation

We continued to build our group of innovative foundations around the world. We hosted a retreat again this year on Wasan Island, courtesy of the Robert Bosch Stiftung’s leadership on behalf of their partnership with BMW Foundation, Breuninger Foundation, McConnell Foundation and Community Foundations of Canada. This year, 20 global foundations came together to discuss how to better align to increase their impact. This co-created set of Tools for Alignment, created by Mark Cabaj following the retreat, are not only useful for fundeers. In May, we ran one day workshop with a group of foundations in Sao Paulo Brazil with our partner ICE Brazil. We also begun groundwork for our 2018 project looking at how data can solve complex social problems.

If you are interested in learning more about the impact we are creating through the SIX Funders node, take a look here. 

  • How universities are beginning to increase their impact

At a time when the challenges facing society are increasing in scale and complexity, universities have begun reviewing their roles and thinking creatively about better ways to use their vast resources, research capabilities and connections which they hold.  In our piece, 5 ways universities are organising themselves differently, we highlight several global examples of the most innovative universities globally. This piece includes the 8 universities in Chile, Colombia, Panama and Brazil who are part of the LASIN project, and a further 8 universities in Myanmar, Malaysia, Thailand and Cambodia who form the SEASIN project, both led our Global Council member GCU to build regional networks of social innovation universities. 

  • A step change in policy to support social innovation

The EC’s ‘Opening up to an Era of Social Innovation’ conference in Lisbon in November was an opportunity for the social innovation community to take stock of our progress to date, and set goals of where we want to go in future. Support for social innovation came from the highest political levels  – the Portuguese President, the Prime Minister, various Mayors and the EC Innovation Commissioner all publicly endorsed the need for  social innovation to be included in future, European policy frameworks. It was a special moment to remember and celebrate our first Chair, the late Diogo Vasconcelos who began this work 10 years ago. Diogo would have been proud to hear this political endorsement and direction is being led by Portugal. More is available on the SIC website

We are also proud to be part of Nesta’s new initiative – States of Change – which builds the capability and culture of governments to practically deal with the complex problems they face.  

Further afield, we continued our work in South-east Asia with our friend Mayor Park of Seoul’s Advisory committee and running training for civil servants in the Efficiency Unit in Hong Kong government. 

  • Local and global learning and exchange

The year was bookended by another Wayfinder style event – Spark! – this time on a national level in Canada. Many of the questions were taken from the global discussion and applied in a Canadian context. Alongside Spark!, there was a special celebration event to recognise the important work of SiG over the last 10 years and mark it’s close. The SiG story, a special reflection on their learnings building an ecosystem in the last 10 years was published. The SiG story features a chapter written by SIX and Tim Draimin, SIX Board member and Executive Director of SiG on shared learnings from running a network. 

2017 was the beginning of the next decade for social innovation and we hope you will continue to be part of it in 2018. 

Season’s greetings!