Social innovation is assembling continual interest and there are several questions arising concerning its quality. For instance, social innovation: who can do it, where can be found, what social issues can resolve and many more.
Additionally, social innovation is “a novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, or sustainable than existing solutions and for which the value created accrues primarily to society as a whole rather than private individuals[1]”.
Yet, what’s new about social innovation? Well, seems like social innovation is becoming mainstream innovation. It is no longer limited to non-profits and NGOs that try to alleviate a problem in their community. Social innovation becomes a regular approach for governments and companies that realize its usefulness. Social innovation is good business and good for the business.

Of course we all know the noteworthy case of Grameen Bank, the microcredit pioneer that transformed the banking industry in developing countries, but fewer people may know about the network of 542 towns and cities in 52 countries experimenting with participatory democracy on a local scale[2] and about the crucial role that social innovation will have in the next generation of European public policies[3], or that Social Innovation Summit 2017 gathered in Chicago more than 1,000 professionals from the corporate world looking for the next big idea.
And it is also not any more about developed countries exporting ideas to developing regions. We can increasingly see great examples emerging in less-developed countries that have full applicability in developed countries. For instance, the advertising billboard developed in Peru that turns humid air into usable water, or the world-leading mobile-money system developed by M-PESA in Kenya.
Social companies usually fall into one of these categories. A) Those trying to meet a social need with their activity (such as Sanergy, that provides affordable sanitation in Africa’s informal settlements). B) The ones inserting social values at the core of a “regular” business (such as Ilunion, that carries out its business activities in five divisions incorporating workers with disabilities).
On that reasoning, we will give you an idea of the current size of the social innovation market. In reality, only 208 of the world’s leading impact investing organizations manage nearly USD 114 billion in impact assets[4]; and the capital available for impact investment keeps growing exponentially year over year (see figure below).

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Source: Global Impact Investing Network 2017 Annual Impact Investor Survey

However, although the social innovation progress seems to be unstoppable, there are still some areas that need further attention to prop up this growth.

The first one is the challenge of how to measure the impact that is being generated by these social innovations (we will dedicate a further post to this topic later on). The second is the ongoing need for specific training to help those involved in this field improve the skills and competences needed to successfully develop sustainable and scalable social innovations.

To tackle the latter issue, Limitless together with ICAN (the publisher of Harvard Business Review Poland) and 3 other partners have recently started a project aiming to develop the first online Social Innovation Academy in Europe. If you are interested in keeping up with this project, you can subscribe to our newsletter or follow us on social media (LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook).

We are also looking for experts willing to join the Social Innovation Academy global advisory board, so if you are interested get in touch with us.


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The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsi­ble for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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