a new approach to learning and training that will equip people who work on the front lines in government, the third sector and industry with skills and methods for solving our greatest social challenges, and help them learn more quickly from one another
a select body of research, case studies, tool kits and models that provide innovative approaches for tackling issues such as climate change, crime, material poverty, affordable health care and disconnected communities
a network of hubs and centres across the world that deliver hands-on, practical training in a local context
a faculty of the world’s leading experts and practitioners in social innovation
Why a Global Innovation Academy? The big issues – climate change, crime, material poverty, affordable health care, disconnected communities – are increasingly complex. Solutions will require a new level of expertise and creativity from the people who work in government, industry, and the third sector. Scientific and technological innovation is now supported by substantial funding flows, institutions, intermediaries and methods. Innovation to meet social needs now demands an equivalent level of commitment.
Although there are now greater flows of finance into social innovation and entrepreneurship, the key constraints are ones of skills and capacity. People want faster and easier access to the best insights into how to organise finance; how to use design tools; how to engage the public in developing creative solutions; how to scale projects that work.
Why Now? The demand for new ways of learning comes from three main sources:
Governments and public sectors need to raise their game in innovation, in particular to drive up productivity in fields such as welfare and education
Businesses seek to engage with some of the key growth fields of the 21st century such as health, care and green jobs, many of which require very different models of innovation to the hardware dominated models prominent in the late 20th century
NGOs seek new funding sources, diverse markets and more systemic approaches to problem solving
Who is behind the Global Innovation Academy? The GIA has evolved out of discussions involving many of the lead practitioners in the field worldwide. A key input has come from the Social Innovation eXchange (SIX), a global community of over 1000 individuals and organisations – including small NGOs and global firms, public agencies and academics – committed to promoting social innovation and growing the capacity of the field. The planning work also brings together a range of other partners including the Rockefeller Foundation in New York, the Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon, Cisco, London Business School, the Social Innovation Park in Bilbao and the Fuping Institute in Beijing, as well as individuals including John Kao, Rosabeth Moss Kanter and Stephen Goldsmith.
A series of background studies have sought to systematise the methods already being used worldwide, including applications of design, crowd-sourcing, finance, commissioning and incubation. These are being used to shape a comprehensive curriculum that covers the key stages of innovation – from diagnosing problems, through creative design, to prototypes and pilots, to the challenges of sustaining and then scaling innovations. Elements are being tested with groups of practitioners from all sectors. The goal will be to provide a wide range of learning tools, from online materials, through short courses, to modules in MBAs and MPAs, and bespoke offerings for organisations wanting to raise their game. Potential pilots are being planned in a range of countries including the USA, Spain, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and Brazil.
Examples from the field The mayor of a large urban centre in Asia is facing a significant challenge. As a result of the current financial and economic crisis, costs for essential services are rising while revenues continue to fall. At the same time, structural barriers throughout government agencies and departments tend to block new ideas, resulting in the same standard solutions and programmes that consistently have failed to address pressing problems in education, healthcare, and economic development. The mayor is aware of experiments in government to integrate innovation into the personal development, training, and culture of organisational management and front-line service delivery, but he is not sure how to implement such projects or whether they would deliver the results he needs.
Examples from the field An Australian centre for social innovation brings together public, private and community partners to design new solutions to social problems. The centre’s chief executive has been able to connect with colleagues across the globe to share and exchange knowledge, practice, and ideas. Nevertheless, she often struggles to identify methods that will engage practitioners, leaders, and community members in the process of innovation. She has come to believe that the field of social innovation lacks a shared base of concepts, research, case studies or theories of change, and its institutions are weak. She seeks better methods for developing the skills of practitioners, disseminating good ideas, and accelerating innovation to meet social need.
Examples from the field A major global business recognises that it needs to change radically. For decades the company has manufactured electronic hardware. However, core leadership in the organisation recognise that the biggest growth over the next several decades will come in sectors such as health and care. These are fields where governments and NGOs play critical roles – and where value comes as much from what people do as from the tools they employ. The company needs to rethink its ways of working, its alliances and its marketing, and above all how it innovates to produce new combinations of products and services.