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An Introductory Note on Social Innovation

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Almost every reformist debate in the twenty-first century begins with a critique of global capitalism for leading the world into a labyrinth of escalating problems such as poverty, inequality, and environmental crisis. To mitigate the damage it has caused, a wave of global philanthropy is emerging alongside it. People are attempting to mitigate these problems through charity, donations, and other social initiatives, but research and policy debates typically label these initiatives as unsustainable because the resource input in all of these efforts is continuous. To address global problems, particularly in developing countries, the modern wave of innovation and entrepreneurial dynamics suggests social innovation as a more sustainable and viable solution.Social innovation has the potential not only to mitigate the negative effects of capitalism, but also to address the issue of unemployment in all contexts.

When defining social innovation, we should first consider defining the profit-maximizing innovations or innovations in general which is usually linked with the renowned economist Joseph Schumpeter, that is; any idea that can be transformed into a successful product or service in order to generate a certain profit or value is referred to as an innovation. In contrast, social innovation, rather than focusing on profit generation, focuses on societal value generation.These innovations specifically revolve around societal problems, and the framework is citing a problem, then creating an innovative solution, and finally converting that problem into a social entrepreneurial venture or embedding it with already existing ventures. Social Innovation is a contested concept with multiple meanings that have implications beyond academia. It is not a new term-its sociological heritage can be traced to late nineteenth century. The concept was used by sociologists, either to explain how increasingly networked societies stimulated technological innovations. Globally, social innovation is now recognized as one of the major tools for achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. In fact, research in this field is increasing in developing countries such as Africa, Bangladesh, and India.

When we talk about innovations in general, we usually accuse the uneven and uncertain conditions of our valley’s innovation ecosystem, and we frequently mention the problems associated with the Jammu and Kashmir region. As defined, social innovations revolve around societal problems, which means that a region with a greater number of problems has a greater potential for social innovations. In a nutshell, our valley is a hotbed for experimenting with social innovation and social entrepreneurial ventures.

The inspirations for social innovation have people like Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus to its name who with his social entrepreneurial initiatives lifted around 300 million people out of poverty across the globe. While putting light on the incentives of a social innovator, he in his book ‘A World of Three Zeros,’ mentions that the father of modern economics is misinterpreted at many fronts. Had he distinguished between the two businesses, it would have been clear to the world that profit maximizing businesses are not the only types of businesses to go for and selfishness could not only be for profit, it could befor philanthropy as well.

The establishment of a social entrepreneurial venture not only solves the problem temporarily, but also creates a long-term and self-sustaining solution. In more specific terms, rather than donating to the poor, which only temporarily solves their problem, we can create employment for them through the framework of social innovation or assist them in starting their own small businesses, which will solve their problem permanently. The need of the hour is to first raise awareness among people about the distinction between two types of businesses, and then to help existing entrepreneurs understand the scope and framework of social innovation. Furthermore we need to introduce the academia of social innovation and social entrepreneurship in colleges and universities.

Last but not least there is a need for establishment of organizations like Grameen and Yunus Centre which will facilitate the awareness and incubation support for these types of ideas and ventures in our local context. The universities can also make social innovation clubs to nurture and foster the ecosystem of social innovation.

(MUZAMIL FAROOQ)

(Author is M.Sc. Technology, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship from NIT Srinagar. Email: [email protected])

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