2019 has been an unsettling year. For citizens all over the world, for the social innovation movement, and for SIX, where we have had our own organisational changes. But in the midst of these confusing times, we have an opportunity to be bolder.
We have a window of opportunity to bring together deeply divided sectors and people; to encourage nuance and not see everything as black and white and to develop a new narrative based on action and hope. Social innovation can provide direction in uncertain times, and SIX can be your guide.
2019 has been busy, and I hope 2020 will be even busier. Below, I have highlighted some of our key achievements this year and set out some priorities for 2020.
1. Philanthropy needs to be more effective and authentic
In 2019… The world began to question philanthropy - with Winners Take All, Decolonizing Wealth and Just Giving. At SIX, we entered our 5th year exploring this question, and we brought together 50+ forward-thinking foundations from 20 countries in breakfast discussions, retreats, and roundtables to explore future fit philanthropy, risk, social cohesion, how it works with the private sector. We questioned how foundations are thinking about their use of assets, legacies and the role of Boards.
In 2020… We need to stitch these discussions together. Our ‘year on power’ will be our attempt to do this -- looking at power within philanthropy, especially Board structure and risk, but also between the sector and the people they need to serve. We will also work on building capacity within teams.
2. Business needs to take their role in society seriously
In 2019… We took part in a project with a series of Hong Kong partners, questioning what motivates businesses to do good. From 20 global and local cases, we are seeing some key patterns of why companies are genuinely changing -- genuine leadership, government regulation, and the next generation workforce are demanding more from the places they work. We presented our findings at the Hong Kong Social Enterprise Summit.
In 2020... This report will become public, and we hope to be continuing the work with companies to bridge the gap between businesses and society.
3. Universities need to become more permeable
In 2019… We were influenced by the Permeable University - a report from the University of Lincoln, examining the relevance of universities and how they can better support our society to flourish at a time of significant upheaval and volatility. We were involved in 2 programmes attempting this in practice - SEASIN with 8 universities across South East Asia and SIKE with 5 HEIs in Europe. We worked with the British Council in Hong Kong to support collaborations between academics and practitioners, inspired by collaboration processes from Central Saint Martins’ Public Collaboration Lab in the UK.
In 2020… We will continue to work with universities that are ready to embrace their role in a changing society, helping to put the recommendations of the permeable university into action, globally.
4. Governments need to reconnect with citizens to regain their trust
In 2019… We started the year with the Social Labs Symposium in Hong Kong, which brought together global examples of social labs that connect governments and citizens. At a European level, we are proud to be involved in Social Innovation Policy Alliance with Nesta and others, building on the work of the Social Innovation Community (SIC) project and the SI Declaration.
In 2020… We will be working with city and national governments around the world and surfacing local social innovation narratives. We need to shine a light in amazing leaders like Mayor Wonsoon Park in Seoul, Audrey Tang in Taiwan, Uffe Elbaek in Denmark and Ada Colau in Barcelona. We need to make it easier for other governments to follow these examples, rather than the alternative authoritarian leaders that we usually read about.
5. We need to grow the next generation of SI leaders
In 2019… When students from Manila to Montreal took days off school as part of Fridays for the Future movement, led by Greta Thunberg, people stopped and started to listen. We believe there is a need to build a new cadre of young global citizens who are better prepared for a changing world. So, we launched the Global Innovation Academy Summer School - a week long social innovation summer training programme to help young people develop the skills and capabilities to navigate the volatile, uncertain next decade.
In 2020… We will be scaling this programme, supporting more people from around the world between 18-24 to develop innovation skills, with programmes in the UK and Asia. We must grow and diversify the next generation of global social innovation leaders.
6. Growing the Social Innovation movement
We finish 2019 needing social innovation more than ever. Our field faces challenges - social innovation is criticised for being elitist, amorphous, a ‘catch all’, and niche. But the reality is, we need to find new ways of doing things, urgently. And we need to be more organised about it. Geoff Mulgan, SIX founder, Board member and one of the most important drivers of the social innovation movement published Social Innovation: How Societies find the Power to Change - we recommend this as an essential Christmas read! Below are some of the changes we need to make in 2020, inspired by the ideas in this book.
In 2020… SIX needs to help people all over the world find the courage and power to change. We must move from selfish to social; from what is, to what could be. We need to tell better stories, to be more concrete.
In 2020... We will continue to explore what a social innovation business looks like.
In 2020... You will find SIX paying more attention to the field we are trying to create. We need to apply Social innovation needs to be more political. Because from the UK, to the US, to Hong Kong - social innovation is needed now more than ever.
We are extremely proud of what we have all achieved - that includes those team members who left this year, as well as those who joined us, and our team members in Hong Kong and Canada.
That said, social innovation needs to do better next year, and that means SIX needs to step up too!
Best wishes and Season’s Greetings!