Social innovation: it’s not about the idea or the “aha” moment. It’s about creating a critical mass of stakeholder champions. Surprised? So was I, but UC Davis Center for Entrepreneurship chair Andy Hargadon and Rockefeller President Judith Rodin presented compelling arguments and multiple examples to make the case at the Council on Foundation’s Annual Conference in Denver.
According to the discussion during the conference session, “Social Innovation: What it is and what it means for Philanthropy,” it turns out that after 4000-plus mousetrap patents, the most effective and bestselling mousetrap is one of the first traps designed, thereby destroying the adage that if you build a better mousetrap people will beat a path to your door!
According to Rodin and Hargadon, who’ve studied and spearheaded plenty of successful innovations, success requires a network of stakeholdershardwired to contribute, spread and continuously improve philanthropy’s work. It can be an old idea thought about in a new way, but it must engage. As Rodin said, “If you want impactful answers, ask everyone.”
So what are we to do as philanthropic leaders? Our challenge and opportunity is to create a culture that requires connectivity, that rewards risk taking, and asks, “What mistakes have you made lately?” and welcomes a positive response.
Innovation in philanthropy demands transparency, sharing and collaboration. Hargadon ended his remarks saying: “The future is already here. It’s just unevenly distributed.” Philanthropy can even out that distribution letting everyone share in shaping the future.
Ophelia Basgal is the vice president of community relations at the Pacific Gas & Electric Company.