In October 2016, I was thrilled to join the Innovate Springfield team to head up its Social Innovation Program. Since then, I’ve been asked: what is social innovation, and how will it benefit the Springfield community?
Social innovation is a field that produces new, more effective, more creative solutions to social problems. It is distinct from social entrepreneurship -- when a for-profit business aligns its mission with solving social problems or benefiting social causes -- in that it focuses on supporting non-profits and agencies that serve others. As the Stanford University Graduate School of Business notes, “[t]he value created [by social innovation] accrues primarily to society rather than to private individuals.” One of the unique aspects of Innovate Springfield is that Social Innovation and Business Incubation are located under one roof, creating an environment that promotes meaningful interactions between the business and non-profit communities and a widespread culture of innovation in our community.
Innovate Springfield’s Social Innovation Program focuses on improving the lives of Springfield’s less-advantaged residents by improving the capacity of the non-profits that serve them. In its early stages, the program will be guided by the Sangamon Success Report, a set of 25 recommendations on how to improve the lives of less-advantaged youth in Sangamon County through evidence-based programs. The innovative nature of the Sangamon Success Report lies in its commitment to promoting evidence-based programs -- doing what research suggests works -- combined with fostering innovation and experimentation to discover new keys to effectively supporting less-advantaged youth in our community.
For more information, check out the Sangamon Success Report, and stay tuned for updates on the Social Innovation Program in each iSPI monthly newsletter.