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What does social innovation mean in times of crisis?

Published Date: 25 June 2019

Hong Kong is a city which we, at SIX, feel very close to. We have a team member and a board member from Hong Kong, and many wonderful partners and collaborations in the city. It’s difficult for us to watch what has been happening over the past two weeks. The city has become even more polarised.

Almost everywhere you look around the world, there are situations reaching crisis point. Alongside the 2 million protestors on the streets of Hong Kong, we see terror and violence in Sudan, and escalating tensions in the Gulf. Between that and the global political crises, it can sometimes feel like the world is spiralling out of control.

At SIX, we have been reflecting on the role social innovation in times of crisis, and how social innovation can help make sense of seemingly chaotic situations. We believe that the widening polarisation of societies is not inevitable, and that social innovation has much to offer. This offer must begin with the values that sit at the heart of our work - empathy, humility, curiosity, integrity, respect and diversity.

Having purposeful conversations is at the heart of SIX’s work. For society to progress, we must find new ways to understand each other and new ways to talk through complex issues, particularly when people are having opposing views. Social innovation can give people agency, and helps realise human potential. It respects, and values, different identities. This can only be found through a new kind of dialogue and exchange.

We need the courage to find a new narrative that builds, rather than divides. So, at a time values feel increasingly threatened in many societies today, we have returned to the words of Charlie Leadbeater, who summarised the conversations at the SIX Wayfinder in London in 2017. Based on what he heard from this group of global social innovation leaders, Charlie offered 6 things that social innovation can offer to an out of control world. They are:

  1. Escapism - providing alternative imagination

  2. Resistance - helping to resist, to fight and to live in truth

  3. Coping - creating even better coping capabilities

  4. Creative conservatives - conserving the space and the possibility for human potential

  5. Radical conservatism - making a movement that moves people and touches heart

  6. Transformation - changing the rules of the game, creating new relationships and with that, creating new flows and resources through society

Read more to see how he elaborated, and his encouragement to social innovators. We hope that you, and especially social innovators in Hong Kong find them as inspirational and thought provoking as we have.