Assessing the impact of Social Innovation

I carried out some pilot research last year for NESTA Connect on collaborative innovation with Dr Alain Samson at the LSE. One of the areas we looked at as part of our thin slice was Social Innovation 2.0 (e.g. where Web 2.0 meets Open Collaboration), which has captured the imagination of various funding bodies and institutions. Social Reporter David Wilcox had kindly mentioned a video about the social entrepreneur landscape from the 2gether08 gathering, and it was interesting to hear an admission that there’s a danger of a Fools’ Gold Rush where from time to time you get social entrepreneurs crowding in to do something that look goods at the time, but doesn’t turn out to exceed expectations.

I also remember seeing the following Post-It note from the NESTA-funded Social Innovation Camp shindig:

“We’re Really Sorry But … we’re a really small team & we need to CRANK … so please come in & listen but please forgive us if we don’t have the time to catch you up on the latest thinking … Thank You! & apologies again …”

I was left wondering whether ‘cranking’ is a euphemism because there appears little in the way of any real social impact assessment to judge if all the ‘cranking’ is a means to an end or an end in itself. NESTA’s Socialbysocial handbook may have been be a good place to start, at least as far as explaining the territory and providing some terms of reference with an A-Z of terms, but the case studies weren’t that inspiring given all hype surrounding social innovation. This seems to echo some of the points made by Jaron Lanier in the podcast interview I mentioned in my previous post (see here) – particularly as to whether there’s anything actually new here.

What still appears to be missing is an agreed means of assessing social impact of Social Innovation 2.0 to help form the basis of any funding criteria and project evaluation, which look whimsical at best if you can’t manage what you can’t measure! So maybe NESTA’s Public Services Lab should should think about funding and supporting the use of social media tools for the open and collaborative development of a social impact assessment/social performance management guide(s) for social innovators? That’s if the Tories don’t have NESTA in their sights as far as any cuts are concerned.

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One Response to “Assessing the impact of Social Innovation”

  1. Talk is cheap and action speaks louder than words « debatorium Says:

    […] is cheap and action speaks louder than words By juzzie Following on from my post about assessing the impact of social innovation, I though the following Michael Foot quote from The Guardian, summed up the sad truth about social […]

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