The list of serious problems that our world faces is long and growing: soaring inequality, climate change, the enduring negative impacts of structural racism and colonialism, and, of course, global health pandemics like the COVID-19 crisis. As these forces increasingly shape our lives, they have created more demand for new, effective approaches to positive social change than ever before.

This is the work of social innovators. And both supporters and skeptics alike are asking if social innovation can rise to meet the moment. But the stakes are too high to stop there. We must ask ourselves an even more difficult question: what if social innovation cannot?

At Echoing Green, we have long believed in the transformative potential of social innovation to drive positive social change. There are many reasons why we’ve seen social innovation as a critical part of our path forward (and why I’ve dedicated my professional life to the sector for the last 30 years.)

  • Social innovation is alliance-based. While those in power often perceive social change work to be a zero-sum, win-lose proposition, social innovation creates new and shared public value, fundamentally demonstrating that social change work can be a win-win proposition for a broad set of allies.
  • Social innovation is “Creative Destruction.” Social innovators seek to break down systems that work for far too few of us and create new more just, equitable, and sustainable ones.
  • Social innovation leapfrogs current constraints, where small and incremental changes simply allow the status quo and dominant culture to stay ahead.
  • Social innovation creates a new narrative ecosystem. Entrepreneurship is such a powerful and enticing trope that it helps to normalize transformational change efforts and provides a counterweight to conservative forces.
  • Social innovation activates young people because they are passionate about its promise for driving positive social change, learn about themselves and the world through the work, and come into their own as change agents.
  • Social innovation is dynamic and propulsive. Entrepreneurship and innovation are all about finding new ways to address tough problems, creating value, defying constraints, and identifying opportunities, exactly the transformational work required to dismantle inequitable systems like structural racism.

Read the full article about social innovation by Cheryl Dorsey at Stanford Social Innovation Review.