Social Innovation – Doing More With More

The phrase social innovation is surfacing everywhere.  The European Union has just launched Social Innovation Europe.  The UK has multiple initiatives around social innovation. President Obama has an Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation. The Canadian Government has established awards for social innovation.  The British Columbia Government has created an Advisory Council on Social Entrepreneurship, “to maximize social innovation.”

Some, naturally will be suspicious.  Is this new rhetoric for the same old same old?  Is this an attempt by governments and their apologists to off- load responsibilities to communities without additional resources?

Social innovation should not be about doing more with less.  It is about doing more with more.

  • More citizens, volunteers, families and social networks creatively applying their talents and ingenuity to solve our social challenges
  • More non profits with the resources to deal with the causes of our social challenges not just the effects – finally able to turn their attention to reducing and preventing recurrences
  • More innovative practices within the public service to improve how they deliver services to people and more importantly their timely, proactive response to innovative community solutions
  • More businesses adding social and environmental impact to their mission, thereby creating blended economic and social value
  • More sectors working together in partnership
  • More financial investment in creative community solutions that demonstrate results.

We haven’t successfully resolved long-standing complex societal problems like domestic violence, poverty, homelessness or exclusion, let alone emerging challenges like climate change, social isolation and healthy ageing.

We will need more of everything – creativity, innovation, engagement, people, organizations, sectors, networks, resources and finances.  Social innovation is simply a rallying phrase for all hands on deck, for doing more with more.

Re-posted with permission from

About the Lead Author

Al Etmanski
Al Etmanski is a community organizer, social entrepreneur and author. ( (@aletmanski ) His latest books are Impact: Six Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation and The Power of Disability: 10 Lessons for Surviving, Thriving and Changing the World. He is a faculty member of the Asset Based Community Development Institute (ABCD), an Ashoka fellow, senior fellow Social Innovation Generation and Co-Chair of BC Partners for Social Impact. Al is co-founder of Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN), a family run social enterprise assisting families address the financial and social well-being of their relative with a disability, particularly after their parents die. He proposed and led the successful campaign to establish the world’s first savings plan for people with disabilities, the Registered Disability Savings Plan. John McKnight endorsed Al's book Impact by saying: Impact is a chronicle of the wisdom Etmanski has gained in exploring the keys to long-term social change. His findings lead us out of the past and onto a pathway for progress in the 21st century. Once describing Al as an Abundant Community Pioneer, Peter Block wrote: Al Etmanski is one of North America's best social inventors. He has looked beyond traditional institituions and their failures to create new means of achieving a better life. His analysis of the forms of organization that enable local communities while avoiding rigid hierarchies is groundbreaking. His book A Good Life is a wonderful and practical guide to the potential for neighbors to grow strong through the power of hospitality. Michael J. Fox said of Al's latest book, The Power of Disability: This book reminds us of what we have in common: the power to create a good life for ourselves and for others, no matter what the world has in store for us.

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