Giving Compass' Take:

• Shawn Ginwright and Sai Seigel offer three actions for organizations to cultivate durable solutions to the underlying causes of systemic racial inequities.

• How can donors help with resources to support moving a social innovation and racial equity agenda?

• Learn about one foundation's growth of impact investing for racial equity.

The concept of “social innovation” has been the catalyst of change in nearly every aspect of daily life for more than a decade. It has been driven by the belief that if innovation can fix significant market-driven technological problems, then it can fix significant social problems as well. Examples include everything from micro-lending in the banking industry to changes in medical care delivery and the transformation of communication technology.

This brand of social innovation sees the world of social problems almost entirely as “design challenges.” It assumes that the secret sauce of solutions comes from observing the problem, generating ideas to address it, and prototyping and testing small-scale fixes. This process works well, for instance, to help people access to clean water and wind-powered electricity. But when it comes to the deeper problem of structural racial inequality, it stumbles.

So, how might social innovation create durable solutions that address the root causes of racism and racial bias? Our experience working with organizations ranging from small community groups in church basements to boards of directors of large foundations has led us to three insights:

  1. Lead with building a shared understanding of the underlying causes of racial inequality. We have seen excellent projects aimed at solving complex social issues succeed and fail.
  2. Create systems of support that build the soft skills required to solve hard problems. Social innovation efforts are often product driven, not process driven.
  3. Be honest about organizational readiness for innovation and racial equity. Let’s be honest, not all organizations are ready to commit to the work of combining social innovation with racial equity.

Read the full article about using social innovation to solve racial inequality by Shawn Ginwright & Sai Seigel at Stanford Social Innovation Review.