top of page
  • Jeroo Billimoria

Transforming the Barriers into Opportunities in the Social Innovation Sector

Transforming the Barriers into Opportunities in the Social Innovation Sector

Thank you for coming along on this journey with me to explore the Social Innovation Sector (SIS) and to build a shared understanding of its potential to drive systems change.

In the past few months, we've delved into the concepts that form the People and Planet Economy, uncovered the meaning of social innovation, and explored the characteristics of those shaping the social innovation sector.

But in today's blog, I'm switching things up a bit. I'm taking a moment to reflect on the challenges we encounter in the Social Innovation Sector (SIS) as we work together to construct a robust, supportive, and sustainable social innovation ecosystem. I'll also discuss how we can transform these challenges into opportunities. If you're new to this blog, consider catching up by reading my earlier posts.

Before we dive in, remember, that this isn't a one-sided conversation. We're a team, and your thoughts matter. Head to the comments section – let's keep the conversation alive. Also, don't forget to share with your networks and encourage everyone to contribute. We're all part of the process of conceptualising a new economy and the ecosystem necessary to drive the social innovation sector.

So, What is the Social Innovation Sector?

Well, this is not going to be a long elaborated explanation. The social innovation sector is like a container that holds a mix of visionary businesses, bold innovators, and resolute policymakers. In my blog, discussing who is building the social innovator sector, I explained the concept as a house, with the social innovation sector serving as the container that envelops the house.The Social Innovation Sector aims to create a cohesive and effective ecosystem capable of supporting and scaling local innovations to address the complex challenges of society. While these challenges may seem formidable, they are not insurmountable.

Despite progress, the challenge remains: we're not all on the same page about what social innovation truly means. This lack of a formalized social innovation sector is like building a house without a blueprint—progress, but not as impactful.

Without clear structures, community-driven initiatives struggle to secure the support they need for lasting transformations. 

Why is the Social Innovation Sector Fragmented?

The strength of social innovation lies in its local roots and community-led nature. However,  this means social innovators often operate independently in their communities across various geographies - being underserved, and under-resourced, while facing resource barriers compounded by urgent needs. 

The absence of a common understanding of the Social Innovation Sector (SIS), coupled with the fragmentation of the sector, and the exclusion of social innovators from funding decision-making, creates challenges for community-based innovators to adequately connect and collaborate. 

In addition to their critical work, these social innovators must navigate the complexities of securing financial and human resources and developing plans, and strategies, all on limited budgets. This not only places a significant burden on their already stretched resources but also hampers their access to institutional support.

This lack of cohesion and understanding often leads to the misdirection of institutional funding, intended for local impact, into inefficient 'community-based' models.

Why Do We Need a Social Innovation Sector in Countries?

The global awareness of the Social Innovation Sector (SIS) has seen a positive uptick, yet the capacity of countries to build and formalize this sector varies widely. Some governments have taken the lead by crafting strategies, establishing institutions, and allocating budgets for SIS development. 

Germany and Portugal are among the few countries that have offices of social innovation, which has helped the sector in these countries flourish. Imagine a fully funded office in the President or Prime Minister's office of social innovation. Governments are sending a message - they think people and the planet are at the core. To support a thriving social innovation certain countries have successfully developed legal frameworks. Many lag behind in providing substantial support, hampering sector growth. 

This skewed distribution, coupled with opaque financing practices and compliance requirements that often sideline locally-led initiatives, impedes the support needed for responsive innovations crucial for community transformation. 

For those who believe in the potential impact of social innovation and are committed to collaborating to build an enabling ecosystem, there is a huge opportunity to advocate and advise countries on establishing and formalising their county social innovation sectors, drawing from countries who are leading by example. 

How Can You as an Individual Formalize the Development of the Social Innovation Sector in Your Country?

This question lies at the heart of our exploration, and I believe the powerful movement of Catalyst2030 is solving both the challenge and offering an opportunity for social innovators and nations alike. My first recommendation is to join Catalyst 2030 as a member.  

For better context, Catalyst2030 is a global movement of social change innovators, collaborating in this urgent moment to achieve Sustainable Development Goals. You can also be a part of this movement here

So, back to the question, I have outlined some practical steps for social innovators can look into. This is also for countries looking to formalise, build, and foster the Social Innovation Sector's (SIS) growth. I drew insights from the experience of Catalyst 2030, the global network of social innovators supported by the One Family Foundation. These steps are outlined in detail in the Catalyst 2030 Chapters Handbook.

  • Leverage your local Catalyst 2030 Chapter: Reach out to your local Catalyst 2030 Chapter, where social innovators in your region gather. By connecting with like-minded individuals, you can foster collaboration and contribute to the growth of the Social Innovation Sector (SIS). If there isn't a local chapter in your area, you can seek support from the Catalyst 2030 Secretariat to establish one.  

  • Map allies and potential partners/members: With assistance from the Catalyst 2030 Secretariat, identify potential allies, partners, and collaborators who share your vision for advancing the SIS. These could be other social innovators, NGOs, community organizations, academic institutions, or government agencies. Mapping out these connections helps build a supportive network and enables synergistic efforts toward common goals.

  • Define strategic priorities and work on a plan: Collaborate with fellow social innovators within your local Catalyst 2030 Chapter to identify strategic priorities for advancing the SIS in your country or region. This involves assessing the current landscape, understanding key challenges, and setting clear objectives for collective action. By aligning priorities, you can focus efforts and resources where they are most needed, driving meaningful progress toward a more robust and sustainable SIS ecosystem.

  • Share your plans, progress, and opportunities for collaboration to build the sector in your country and region: Actively participate in Catalyst 2030 General Assemblies and other forums to share your chapter's plans, progress, and achievements. By engaging with the wider Catalyst 2030 community, you can exchange knowledge, best practices, and lessons learned with fellow social innovators from around the world. 

  • Access further support through the One Family Foundation, with support from C2030: Take advantage of the support and resources offered by the One Family Foundation and Catalyst 2030 to strengthen your efforts in building the Social Innovation Sector (SIS). For example:

  • Space for sharing and connecting - Tendrel provides a space where social impact leaders can find support, discuss sensitive situations, and receive feedback and problem-solving advice from their peers.

  • Shifting the culture -  Catalyst 2030 guides social innovators to identify the main cultural shifts needed to support equity and systems change efforts. 

  • Creating enabling environments - Draw on Catalyst 2030 resources such as The New Allies Report and The New Allies Handbook which help identify the readiness of country’s to establish SIS ecosystems and provide practical initiatives for governments to create a supportive ecosystem and spread social innovation sustainably at scale. Embracing Complexity delves into how to fund systems change. 

  • Supporting systems change efforts - Catalyst 2030 provides resources and events to help you understand systems change through peer-to-peer learning, systems change tools, and unlocking knowledge and theory. 

This shows that there are many ways that you can play a key role in building the sector, so do try to make this happen.

Taking a Moment for Reflection to Foster the Right Collaborative Spirit and Support 

  • Have you had a transformative local networking experience? We'd love to hear about the moments that sparked collaborations and ignited change in your community.

  • What strategic priorities have driven your social innovation efforts? Your experiences could be the catalyst for someone else's breakthrough.

  • How do you envision the future of your local social innovation sector? Your visions might align with others, sparking collaborations that transcend borders.

  • Which resources have been your go-to for navigating the complexities of social innovation? Your recommendations could be the key to unlocking new possibilities for fellow changemakers.

  • What's your approach to supporting systems change? Your unique insights could be the missing piece in someone else's puzzle.

Write your answers in the comment sections. As I share these insights from my Catalyst 2030 journey, I invite you to share your own stories, ideas, and actions. You may have other insights and examples of actions and activities that can help drive the establishment of social innovation sector ecosystems around the world.  Your voice matters in this co-creation of the social innovation sector—let's shape it together.

See you in my next blog…in which I talk about out-of-the-box ideas to finance the sector.

104 views1 comment

1 Comment

Mar 19

In my experience, knowledge and higher understanding of our problem than institutional help made us realize solution to our problem, for farming communities, water is basic pre-requisite, sustainable availability of water is crucial, we have succeeded in accumulating water, owing to geographical compulsions, we are looking for solutions to utilize this precious natural resource effectively. Works and vision of Catalyst 2030 and One Family Foundations aligns with Sustainable Development Goals, I think if we succeed in conveying message (SDGs) to communities at grass roots, we may fast track transition of Social Innovations Sector in countries and communities across globe. Thanks for initiating this movement truly this will help many.

bottom of page