Ideas for social innovation initiatives and projects are generated and created in different ways, but what is clear is that they emerge from existing challenges, issues and concerns detected by (potential) social innovators. Interaction with others and collaborating to develop and fine-tune the idea is also a common denominator across the 8 social innovators representing some of the most dynamic social innovation initiatives we interviewed. We asked them to tell us how they came up with their ideas. Take a look and get inspired.

I had the idea in my head for a few months, but I needed something more in order to start transforming it to action. Everything I needed, I found in the students’ entrepreneurship competition Athens Startup Weekend University, where, in just 52 hours, we had to move from pitching an idea, to creating a team, building a plan, developing the solution and presenting it to the judges. The idea took 2nd place and received many prizes, but that was not the important thing. The most important gain from those 52 hours was the creation of a team which in the majority, up to today, 8 years later, remains at the core of our initiative. This tough and pressurised process, to find the right ways of communication between us and connect the dots from our different experiences and point of views, led in a very creative way to the birth of the organisation that has evolved into what we know today as ethelon (www.ethelon.org). The most interesting thing is that ethelon is the product of another collaborative process, the merger between two different organisations, Glovo and Volunteer4Greece, which were both founded in 2012 and remained active in parallel for four years, until their merger in 2016, aspiring to become the point of reference for volunteering in Greece.

Kostapanos Miliaressis

The idea started out at the kitchen table while teaching a child to read. But it was formed and polished by a team of five developers and designers, who carefully listened to what educators and parents had to say as well.

Ursula Lavrenčič

The idea came during a work/vacation visit to Bangladesh in 2017 with my partner, Neil Taylor. We had planned some factory visits to develop some samples and build relationships for the wholesale side of our business. During our (long, slow Dhaka) commutes to and from various factories we discussed different ideas about what garment workers needed and what might be done to support them. We were not in a position to change the wages of garment workers on the whole, because of our limited influence. We needed something that we could control and oversee directly without interference. We decided to create our own brand with the model of collecting voluntary customer contributions to fund…something on behalf of garment workers. After some discussion, we chose to focus on pensions as something that garment workers cannot afford themselves but that would provide longer-term security for them. Purchasing individual policies attached to each worker ensures they won’t lose the benefit if they move factories or leave the industry for some reason (starting a family, etc.). It enables us to maintain control of the programme because it is between us, the insurance company, and the worker – factory owners/management are not involved. 100% of all contribution money goes towards these policies, which have the additional benefit of life and accident insurance for the workers. Finally, we pay the workers a higher amount than usual when they work on our product lines. Two benefits: Customers are happy to get a quality product at an affordable price and have the option to make a direct impact on workers’ lives. After we returned to Toronto, we surveyed 120 people and found that 78% of people were supportive of the idea and would be willing to make contributions to a model such as ours.

Nurjahan Begum

The idea came to us by observing that so many of our former deaf boys after having finished the schools found themselves at home without being able to work or experience a working experience. So, we came up with the idea of thinking about an activity that could be educational and in the same way give the deaf a chance to work and create an entrepreneurial vein in them. All the process of ideation and creation of the activities has been made in a collaborative process, that involved several colleagues and students of our organization.

Enrico Dolza

The idea was already there to some extent, especially as I was able to demonstrate to the groups a project I had worked on with Voluntary Action Leeds around Open Badges for volunteering. It was then a case of co-designing something more applicable to the opportunities available in the town over a period of sessions with the community groups in the town. A lot of tea and biscuits were consumed but we also set up a social media group to be hold conversations with a wider group of people in the town to help check on and shape progress.

Kevin Field

The spark came through life-coaching, but the specifics of creating what WokenUp is today was a two-year process from inception to reality. At the outset, I had no idea what it was that I wanted to build, other than the project had to be about giving back and making a difference. I thought it might just be a mentoring network. The more I thought about it, I realised that nonprofits make a difference on causes, by definition, so they had to be a part of what I’m creating. Ultimately the creative process was, and has to be, collaborative: the more I talked to people, companies and nonprofits about my project, the more and more positive feedback and ideas they gave me. They’d say, “This sounds great! It would be even more amazing if this platform you’re creating could do x”. WokenUp was clearly solving multiple problems for them, and they were enthused by what would be possible through a purpose-built platform to drive positive change.

Simon Puleston Jones

We both hold master’s degrees in environmental management, with complementary profiles (engineering and business & communication). We are both food waste experts, with more than 10 years’ experience in the food industry and sustainability, in Europe and North America. In terms of food waste management, Vancouver is ahead of Europe, as households and businesses have been required to compost their organic waste since 2015. However, there are many opportunities to work on food waste prevention. And we have been inspired by European organizations proposing similar services. Food businesses want to reduce food costs. And more and more need experts to co-create creative and efficient solutions aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals. That’s how the idea arose and how Rethink2gether started.

Laure Dupuy and Ben Liegey

I knew I had a solution that was unique, universal and innovative that could help 350 million people have a more comfortable life with what is the limitation of colour blindness. Although it was me who said that. And it might be the story of the king who goes naked: ‘The guy invented something that does not exist in parallel and now he will say that this is the solution of the world.’ So I had to go carefully. Because there could have been something better on the other side of the world and I’d be ‘fooling people’, in quotes. So I found that scientific validation was the surest way to go viral (…) Co-creation, one thing I think will allow for a better world – that’s co-creation. Two people cooking is better than cooking alone. Everything is better to do if we all help.

Miguel Neiva

Would you like to learn more from other inspiring social innovators?

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