How did you come up with the idea? Was a creative or collaborative process involved? 


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.

Yolanda Rueda, founder and current President from Cibervoluntarios Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes the use and knowledge of new technologies to alleviate social gaps, says, “Hearing about digital exclusion, about how technology meant separation and division. Something needed to be done about it. How could people live without technology? How did they communicate, participate, share, work collaboratively or do networking, etc.? Something needed to be done to overcome this divide. That is how Cibervoluntarios Foundation was born as a network, without any support or institution behind the organization. This is how this is done by social entrepreneurs”.

Yolanda RuedaCibervoluntarios 

According to the CEO and co-founder of Fresh Check, who has been included in the Forbes 30 under 30 list for Europe in 2017, “As PhD students in chemical biology of health and disease when we started out trying to found a business we wanted to tackle a problem that was not only close to our hearts, but that we already knew a lot about. We sat and brainstormed ideas that we wanted to tackle, before landing on bacterial contamination. Then, the 3 of us went off to research and worked closely with each other as we started to understand the landscape. Eventually we split our roles and started to work more independently, but at first we very much worked together”.

Alex Bond, Fresh Check  

Chris Obrist, from Fab Luzern, launched the initiative very recently as a way of creating awareness among young children regarding the need to reduce plastic waste. He explains the reasons why he came up with his initiative: “I’m the «inventor» of the ReButtons, but people around helped by giving feedback and testing it. It simply started with a hole in a block of wood into which hot plastic was pressed with a screw clamp – a bit adventurous. From there it was a long way, using trial and error, to the finished press mould, which we can produce on the CNC-milling machine in our FabLab Luzern. The manual and CAD files are open-source and can be downloaded for free from our webpage. So the availability of the FabLab and PlasticTwist research project were important elements for me to drive the project”.

Chris ObristRe-BUTTONFabLab Luzern 

Peter Frühmann, who joint forces with Khaled Al-Ostath, a Palestinian undergraduate student, to move forward a private initiative for a school for young orphans (from 5-6 years old) in Gaza, Palestine, to teach them reading and writing in English, explain how the idea was born: “It was Khaled Al-Ostath’s idea. Khaled was studying English (as a bachelor student) at the University of Gaza. He strongly believed that young children should learn English as well (for the reasons stated above). It would also introduce them to another (Western / European) culture and help them to develop understanding along the way. One of his mentors was/is Paul Andrew Costello (Washington D.C., USA), the driving force behind the ‘New Story Leadership’ Project. This project offers half-year internships to Palestinian and Israeli students at Washington University with an interesting angle: they are placed in apartments in pairs (Palestinian-Israeli) and are expected to live together and exchange life stories, ideas and desires and report and discuss these together in plenary sessions. The results were (and are) promising: in almost all cases mutual understanding (and even friendships) spring up, and the hope and objective of this project is ‘new leaders’ that will spread the story of mutual respect and lead their respective people into the process of reconciliation. Paul Costello had asked me if I wanted to help him and young Khaled, financially and practically.”

Peter FrühmannStory Bag 

As explained by the founder of DayCape, a digital image calendar for children with autism, his idea came up as part of his own education: “It started as a school project, where my class was tasked with creating concepts for mobile solutions for people with cognitive difficulties”.

Anton HåkansonDayCape 



Alejandro Hernández Renner is a reference in the region when it comes to rural development and social innovation, he shares how this rural innovation initiative was created, “The idea was originally conceived by the founder, Diego Hidalgo, and the town mayor at the time, Cipriano Tinoco. At the initial stage, in the year 2000, main local actors and social forces were directly involved in the design of a ‘local economic regeneration plan’”.

Alejandro Hernández RennerFundación Maimona 


Avantus is a centre for disabled people, with 30 to 70 percent working abilities. The general manager and founder of AVANTUS, talks about the creation of this initiative: “This idea actually started in a small group, when trying to find a use for socks with mistakes and not suitable for selling. The group played around and made lots of (funny) mistakes, until finally the monkey was born. It was a real creative process, with trial and error.”

Matjan CojhterAVANTUS 


Co-founder Fiori Zafeiropoulou, an academic and a social entrepreneur who holds an award winning PHD on Social Entrepreneurship, explains how the idea for SOFFA was born: “I had just been nominated for her PhD on the scaling strategies of social enterprises from Brunel University, UK and decided to return to her home country, in Greece, to act on the pressing issues of poverty, unemployment and recession in these turbulent times. My family had a sportswear fashion factory for two generations that had ceased production as most of these type of production venues in Greece. The Social fashion Factory (SOFFA) story began during a startup event at Impact Hub Athens where I was looking for partners to set up a social cooperative factory in the fashion industry that would provide for the livelihoods of vulnerable groups. There I heard about the terrible disaster of Rana Plaza accident and the thousands of lives lost. I became a founding member of the global movement of Fashion Revolution in Greece of which she is now the elected Country Coordinator. Around the Fashion Revolution movement a group of like-minded talented professionals are gathered under their common vision to “break the chain” in the fashion industry. And thus SOFFA was born as a social cooperative of fashion designers and professionals establishing a holistic model that would provide value to all stakeholders involved”.

Fiori Zafeiropoulou, Social Fashion Factory, SOFFA 


Want to know more what other Social Innovators think about their projects/initiatives, their ideas, their challenges, their plans for the future, and their lessons learned. Check out the Social Innovation Academy for more interviews, answers and other topics related to social innovation.  


It will be the first Social Innovation Academy in Europe, with a fully online management training programme focusing exclusively on social innovation, developed EOLASLimitless and with 3 other partners. 


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