Importance of Social Innovation

By Giselle Nelson

When is the last time you’ve taken a drive through your town and named a problem that you see? Potholes in the streets, the corner quickie mart that may or may not have a drug operation running out of it, hungry people sitting along side the road, drivers being inconsiderate to bikers, or what have you. I’m certain if you took a second, you can name the problems you see in your community. They’re not hard to see if your eyes are peeled. These are chronic problems with no permanent solutions. These are precisely the problems that are in need of a new perspective.

At Plywood People we believe that social innovation is necessary in communities to address local needs, because what has been done before will not continue to work in the future. But when we begin to look at problems in a new way, we can creatively find solutions to age-old problems.

We also believe that the challenge to solve those problems is directly tied to our personal stories. Which problem that you see, do you feel a connection with? I would venture a guess that whatever pulls at your heartstrings the most, is rooted deeply in you as something that connects with your past in some way. I would also venture another guess, that if it doesn’t, you will struggle to stick with solving that problem.

Too long we’ve watched problems around us and chosen to do nothing. Maybe we have failed to address them because we don’t know where to start, or maybe we’re afraid of failing, or perhaps, we just don’t have the passion for it.

I want to challenge you to take a few steps forward. Try this 1 hour challenge and see what happens.

  1. Take 15 minutes to reflect on your own story. What 5 things have deeply shaped your story?
  2. Now take 15 minutes to think about the problems you have noticed around you. What do you think of? What have you noticed?
  3. Sit with your story and with the problems you noticed for 15 minutes. Are there any correlations? Is there any connection point between them?
  4. Finally, after you have determined how your story connects with the problem you’re passionate about solving, take 15 minutes to creatively brainstorm how you could solve that problem in a simple way that hasn’t been done before.

Now what are you going to do about it? You’ve done the hard work of dreaming up an experiment to try to solve a problem you’re passionate about. Are you willing to try it and see what happens?

We interact with social entrepreneurs everyday who are doing the hard work of solving old problems in new ways. They’ve experimented with possible solutions to see if they might work, they’ve invested their money, time and connections. Some have worked and some have failed, but all have gained influence.  Now it’s your turn. How can you use creativity and innovation to find solutions to age-old problems?