Solving Social Injustices Together With Social Innovation

A little bit less than a year ago, we entered a pandemic. At the time, we naively believed this was a public health crisis and indeed it is a public health crisis that continues to today. But it’s also uncovered another number of crises. Crises that are economic in nature. Crises that are political in nature. Crises that are exacerbated by inequalities. Crises that are connected to our climate issues. And so we have seen as the waters have receded is more and more of these crises brought to the surface.

How will we solve these crises? Well, doing a little bit better, maybe a little bit more efficiently, best practices will get us a little bit of the way. But clearly it will take new thinking and innovation. And so this session is going to be thinking about innovation. But what kind of innovation and with what values.

Peter Tufano

We want to talk about the ways that social entrepreneurs can be the sort of people that can help us get out of this and help us think about how we might make a world that’s fit for purpose in the 21st century because I think there is one thing we can all agree on is that “business as usual” is no longer getting it done.

Peter Drobac

I’ve been toiling in the field of social innovation for two, two plus decades now and you know the animating feature of social innovation is this recognition, this clear-eyed recognition, that the current systems are not working or not working for enough of us. But there is a real animating feature to try to fix, repair, rebuild, reimagine those systems to make them more inclusive and provide more opportunity for all.

But the diagnosis that these systems aren’t working is the same diagnosis that we see from those who are animated from populist anger. So we come at the problem from the same vantage point. The way we have constructed societal forces are simply not working.

I often talk about the weight of systems, systems residue that is weighting folks down: people of colour, marginalized folks, poor folks, women. We can go through all these forms of oppression and these systems are exacerbating those. So we all see it. However our prescription for what to do about it is radically different.

Social innovators recognize that indeed there’s a problem but they raise their hands as engaged committed citizens to say, “Well it’s our job to fix it. We roll up our sleeves, we get to work, and we figure out what we can do.” So much of the populist anger is a nihilistic one as you said Peter, it’s a blow it all up, consequences be damned.

And these conflicting forces that are butting heads, there has to be a way to engage more folks from the other side who are frustrated as many of us are who are engaged in the work of social innovation but do it within the realm of democratic practice that provides a seat for all of us at the table. I think that’s the needle to thread. And I think we’ve got to figure it out and we got to figure it out sooner than later.

Cheryl Dorsey

As a fellow recovering doctor, I use a lot of medical metaphors and sometimes talk about you know these issues as being deep wounds were trying to sort of paper over with band-aids and really just treating the symptoms. And what social entrepreneurs and social innovators do is really try to understand what’s driving these problems at their root causes. And try to impact those systems and those deep structural forces, treating the system rather than the symptoms.

Peter Drobac

I must create a system or be enslaved by another man’s; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

Willliam Blake

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