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New SIX Series-Blog No. 1: Exploring social innovation in post-conflict societies

Author: Eddy Adams
Published Date: 25 May 2016

What behaviours and attitudes contribute to an effective social innovation culture? A few months ago SIX co-hosted an SIE event with the BMW Foundation to consider this question. “Transparency” Trust” and “Openness” were frequently recurring words in the discussion. This endorsed much of the established evidence about the importance of a collaborative approach to stimulate innovation.

But how does this play out in places recovering from years of tension and conflict? How does the legacy of division and confrontation influence the social innovation process? And how can fragmented geographies and communities rebuild in order to create the trust required to nurture innovative and cross-sectoral activity?

These were important questions to consider in a formerly divided city like Berlin. They are also at the heart of SIX’s work in 2016 and beyond which will take us to Northern Ireland, Colombia and South Africa. In each of these places there is huge energy, optimism and a growing innovation culture. But there is also a post-conflict legacy, which influences and shapes the approach to collaboration and innovation.

On a personal level I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of years. Working in the Basque Country and Colombia have been key triggers. So too has been the experience of Seoul, where Mayor Park has placed such emphasis on building transparency, trust and, what he calls super cross-sectoral collaboration. Interestingly South Korea is also a post-conflict state, with a history of political corruption that is so often part of the legacy. 

So, as SIX prepares for the Unusual Suspects Festival in Northern Ireland and the Summer School in Colombia, we are going to take a look at these important questions through a series of blogs. In the coming months we’ll be hearing about the culture of social innovation on both of those places, and how the backstory of conflict has shaped it.

We will also be dropping into the Basque Country, so often held up as a model of reinvention and renewal, to hear about the effect its conflict had on its distinctive social innovation culture. On the other side of Europe we will get a view on the innovation cultures emerging in the new states within the former Yugoslavia. Beyond Europe, as well as from South America, we will also have insights from Uganda and South Africa.

The series is designed as a contribution to SIX’s commitment to sharing information and intelligence on social innovation across the globe. More than that, we also hope that it will trigger a debate that can be picked up at our upcoming events later in the year.


For the first blog in the series, written by Eddy Adams and Gorka Espiau on the Basque peace process, click here.

For the second post, click here to read Al Etmanski's piece on innovation and the indigenous population of Canada. 

For the third post, by Michelle Breslauer on positive peace approach links between Mexico and Colombia, click here.

Click here to read Bulelwa Makalima-Ngewana's blog on little actions tht bring people together. 


To read an extract from Adam Kahane's latest book entitled Collaborating with the Enemy: How to Work with People You Don't Agree with or Like or Trust, click here.

To read Michelle Herman's blog on how small communities can address traumatic past events, click here.