SIX is now the world’s primary network for social innovation and a reputable source for research, action and intelligence.
We work with cities, national governments, and international bodies such as the European Commission to improve the methods with which our societies find better solutions to challenges such as climate change, inequality and healthcare. We foster genuine, active connections between the people building innovative solutions, from the grassroots to the policymaking level. By promoting learning across sectors, fields and countries, and by communicating and disseminating ideas about social innovation, SIX builds the capacities of its members and enables them to work together to develop resources for social innovators around the world.
The global SIX network is, fundamentally, a unique convener of people, and ideas. Members of our network are determined, vital, and active, putting great projects on the map, aggregating social innovation resources from diverse sources, and generating a strong shared intelligence. The SIX global community, in which people can share openly and learn from one another, has itself become an invaluable resource for its members. Online and offline, we have collaborated successfully with members to curate experiences which bring together practitioners, entrepreneurs, academics, policy makers and private companies for the benefit of all.
About social innovation
Social innovation is the process of designing, developing and growing new ideas that work to meet pressing unmet needs. The term is a relatively new one, but there is a long history of social innovators and examples of social innovation - from kindergartens to hospices, and from the cooperative movement to microfinance.
Social innovation is happening across sectors, from the private and public sectors, to people’s homes and the third sector.
The need for social innovation
The field of social innovation is rich in promising ideas, people and projects from new approaches to tackling youth unemployment to new ways of financing preventative investment. But the whole is less than the sum of its parts. The field lacks a shared base of concepts, research, rich and analytical case studies and robust theories of change. Its institutions are still weak, and it continues to struggle to offer compelling answers to the question increasingly being asked by larger institutions – ‘how can we accelerate innovation and impact in relation to chronic disease, child poverty, carbon reduction …’
We require leadership, coordination, and infrastructure for the emerging social innovation field to move from the current state of fragmentation to place of more consistent, efficient impact across innovations and areas of need.
The Social Innovation eXchange (SIX) through its wide network, growing information resource banks, and policy influencing work, aims to address these needs—to connect, support, and inspire people to become better innovators
Definitions of social innovation
Even though, or perhaps because, the field of social innovation is so new, there are a range of different definitions of social innovation.
The Open Book of Social Innovation, available online on Innovator Resources, offers the following definition:
We define social innovations as new ideas (products, services and models) that simultaneously meet social needs and create new social relationships or collaborations. In other words, they are innovations that are both good for society and enhance society’s capacity to act.
Australian Social Innovation eXchange (ASIX) says that:
"Social innovation refers to new strategies, concepts, ideas and organizations that meet social needs of all kinds - from working conditions and education to community development and health - and that extend and strengthen civil society."
Social Innovation Generation (SiG@Mars), Canada, defines social innovation as:
"an initiative, product or process or program that profoundly changes the basic routines, resource and authority flows or beliefs of any social system (e.g. individuals, organizations, neighbourhoods, communities, whole societies). The capacity of any society to create a steady flow of social innovations, particularly those which re-engage vulnerable populations, is an important contributor to overall social and ecological resilience."
The context for social innovation
All over the world there are great projects and ideas offering potential solutions to urgent social challenges. The recent global recession has created a fertile ground for grassroots action and creative experimentation. Social innovation is ready to take off –with new centres, investment funds and units within governments from, the White House to Whitehall, and Brussels to Beijing, as well as teams in major businesses. Through SIX, these projects, institutions, and movements can link up to share resources and insights. Through SIX, the field of social innovation can coordinate its actions and push its goals forward.
The field of social innovation is growing and has started to get a more central position in policy circles around the world. In May 2009 the President Obama's administration in the USA officially launched its Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation. The office was set up to identify and partner with organisations or businesses that have a proven track record of creating innovative solutions to social needs.
Social innovation has also moved to the political mainstream in the European Commission with President Barroso pushing to promote social innovation in Europe. In August 2010 the European Commission, together with SIX and the Euclid Network, launched the initiative This is European Social Innovation in order to identify excellent social innovation initiatives in Europe. The Bureau of European Policy Advisers (BEPA) also commissioned the Young Foundation and SIX to write a Study on Social Innovation, an overview of social innovation in Europe. Out of this work, the Social Innovation Europe initiative has grown.