A few years ago when people would ask me what I did or the kind of areas I worked in, I was able to talk about this work as a small part of a whole community of people working in “social innovation.” I was able to reel off names of people, projects and programmes that were working hard to address the social, public, political and cultural challenges we face.
Now, when I go to do that I find it much harder to know where those initiatives are. Some have grown in their ambition (like Participatory City), some have scaled (like Good Gym), some have been operationalised (like Casserole Club and Patchwork), some keep growing their portfolio of work (like Snook) and some have closed (like NANA cafe). Individuals have moved into roles in organisations and are trying to influence change from the inside. This is all good, or expected — things needed to scale and develop and it was always going to be the case, that some wouldn’t work out. And there are still other initiatives and people that are inspiring me like the Impact Hub Birmingham team, Project 00 and the WikiHouse team.
But somehow I do feel like there’s not much new coming through in the “social innovation” field. Perhaps as a field, it’s not newness that is important any more because it’s now more important to make sure things work, stick, scale. I still wonder though, do I just hear of things less, has the “social innovation” field started to disperse or are there things that you have view of that you’d be willing to share? I’d love to hear from people about the projects, people and programmes that are inspiring them or give them hope for the future.