Social Innovation | Social Entrepreneurship

    Starting Block

    Welcome to the Social Innovation | Social Entrepreneurship section. This section will help you understand the fundamentals of Social Innovation | Social Entrepreneurship. This section is not intended to be exhaustive list about everything "social", but rather to give an overall view of what we see in the space.

    We are open to suggestions and feedback!

    While historically we believe in the existence of a trade-off between social progress and declining economic efficiency, Porter proves this assumption wrong. In this TED Talk, The Case for Letting Business Solve Social Problems, he will prove to us that not only businesses can make profit from solving problems but they can also reduce costs and increase efficiency.

    "Solving a problem means making profit."

    Michael Porter

    Harvard Business School Professor


    What is Social Innovation?

    "Social innovation is the process of developing and deploying effective solutions to challenging and often systemic social and environmental issues in support of social progress […] Solutions often require the active collaboration of constituents across government, business, and the nonprofit world"
    (Clavier et. al., Stanford Centre for Social Innovation)

    Inspired by natural ecosystems, the Canadian Social Innovation Generation group believes that a healthy system must be resilient and adaptable. As such, social innovation arises from acknowledging the world in all its complexity and can be understood as "an alignment of circumstances that make action possible" (SiG, 2017).

    SiG defines social innovation as: "a process, product or program that profoundly changes the way a given system operates, changing it in such a way that reduces the vulnerability of the people and the environment in that system. As a consequence of a positive social innovation, a system grows more resilient" (SiG, 2014).

    What is the Difference Between Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship?

    The Medium page Social TrendSpotter (2018), featuring bite-sized insights into the social sector, provides a brilliant explanation of the differences between social innovation, social enterprise and social entrepreneurship. Social innovation is about creating ideas for change; social enterprise is about the business model (for-profit or non profit); finally, social entrepreneurship is all about the mindset.

    In the article Social Innovation vs Social Enterprise (2014), Kayla Kurin states that "while a social entrepreneur is focused on solving a problem through business, a social innovator could be looking to solve the problem through a number of different mediums".

    In one of its publications, the Stanford Social Innovation Review (2008) is being provocative by stating that social enterprises are lacking a full understanding of all the manifestations of social change. The article suggests there is cross-contamination between non profits, governments and businesses.

    Types of Social Innovation

    Generally speaking, social innovation can be categorised into three main groups, namely "product-based, process-based and socially transformative":

    Bond, the UK network for international development organisations, worked with a group of 16 NGOs to define a framework identifying nine types of social innovation that can help you articulate exactly how your idea creates a positive impact.

    Dutch philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd designed a systemic framework identifying ten types of social innovation: socio-juridical, socio-cultural, socio-political, socio-ideological, socio-ethical, socio-economic, socio-organisational, socio-technical, socio-ecological and socio-analytical. Initiatives within the social innovation sphere can include one or several of these typologies as one might lead or require another one to exist. (Wigboldus, S., 2016).

    The Process of Social Innovation

    The Open Book of Social Innovation (Murray et al., 2010) is a useful toolkit emerging from the collaboration between Nesta and The Young Foundation. The volume offers tools and methods used across various social innovation sectors - ranging from private to public - and provides insights into the process of social innovation:

    1. Prompts, inspirations and diagnoses: highlight the need for and inspiration behind innovation;
    2. Proposals and ideas: draw insights and generate ideas through creative methods;
    3. Prototyping and pilots: test and refine ideas;
    4. Sustaining: sharpen your idea by identifying ways of sustaining it in the longer term (e.g.: income streams);
    5. Scaling and diffusion: expand your idea (e.g.: ‘organisational growth, through licensing and franchising to federations and widespread dissemination’);
    6. Systemic change: the ultimate goal of social innovation - the creation of new frameworks or architectures made up of many smaller innovations (e.g.: new technologies, supply chains, institutional forms, skills, and regulatory and fiscal frameworks).

    In the article by The Stanford Review, The Five Stages of Social Innovation at Scale (McLeod Grant, 2013) we are offered a strategy to help mature organisations increase their social impact:
    1. Diagnose the organisation or network holistically.
    2. Identify a new vision and strategy for impact.
    3. Realign the organisation around the strategy.
    4. Design a system-wide change process.
    5. Lead, communicate, and engage.

    Different Types of Social Enterprise

    Social enterprises also use innovation in their own business models. You’ll find below 6 common ways a social enterprise can be organised - it doesn't have to be 100% non-profit or 100% for-profit.

    The term “social enterprise” can mean many different things. Where on the spectrum does your favorite one fall? Find out more in this article "There Are Actually Six Types of Social Enterprise" from Conscious Company Media.

    Measuring and Managing Impact

    For any social purpose organisation, making an impact is the holy grail, but how can this be done without having the tools to measure and manage impact? Below, we’ve selected the most common methodologies used in the sector:

    Theory of Change

    A theory of change defines all the building blocks required to bring about a given long-term goal. This set of connected building blocks is depicted on a map known as a pathway of change or change framework, which is a graphic representation of the change process (Source: EVPA) . For example:

    Impact Measurement and Management


    We've selected social enterprises, videos, newsletters, movies, books and social entrepreneurs that inspired us over the years. We hope you will feel inspired too!

    Social Innovation: Innovative Business Models Creating Social Change

    Examples of Businesses Making Significant Impact

    Change Please: Good Coffee Doing Good

    Change Please believes that the nation’s love of coffee is so strong - it could be just what we need to end homelessness once and for all. The social enterprise aims to tackle the coffee industry skills shortage by providing training and employment to the homeless. Their coffee is now available in a major UK supermarket, increasing the impact the social enterprise can make.

    Watch Impact Video

    Fairphone: The world’s first ethical modular smart phone

    Fairphone focuses on long-lasting design, fair materials, good working conditions and reuse and recycling to change the way products are made. Designed with repairability in mind, the company is also creating demand for materials that are good for people and planet.

    Watch Impact Video

    Chooose: Taking a stand and helping people become climate positive

    Chooose are combating climate change, helping their plan subscribers offset their carbon emissions. They have brought together a global community to offset millions of kilos of CO2 by funding the best UN-verified CO2 reducing projects.

    Watch Impact Video

    Auticon: An IT consultancy exclusively employing autistic adults

    Auticon works with autistic adults to harness their unique cognitive strengths to bring a new perspective to IT. The company promotes their employees’ autism-specific skills that can significantly enhance output quality in the areas of IT or compliance within blue-chip organisations. By taking the time to get to know each autistic colleague’s skills, interests, and challenges, and carefully matching those with the right tasks and support mechanisms, auticon creates careers that allow autistic people to not only work, but work to their full potential.

    Watch Impact Video

    Plume Labs: An air quality monitor to map pollution

    Plume Labs' plume meter helps you understand what you breathe and take meaningful action against air pollution. Plume are building a community and empowering people to take action. Improving your own health as a first step to acting together is what we believe will bring an end to air pollution.

    Watch Impact Video

    Pollinate Group

    Pollinate Group is a merger between Pollinate Energy & Empower Generation working to empower women as leaders of change to distribute products that improve health, save time and money with the support of students and professionals for the world’s most neglected communities.

    Watch Impact Video

    Hippo Roller

    Hippo Roller is a social enterprise that has changed millions of lives in 48 countries with appropriate technology in water-stressed communities by improving access to water with the Hippo Roller, a device used to carry 90L of water more easily and efficiently than traditional methods.

    Watch Impact Video

    Digi Me: Ethical data sharing

    Digi Me lets you take control of the data that powers your digital life and experience the magic of apps designed with’s private sharing technology. A new way to power apps with your data - privately

    Watch Impact Video

    Fab Foundation: Knowledge & education using technology to allow anyone to make anything

    Fab Foundation supports Fab Labs all around the globe to reach people for play, entertainment, education, art, space, creating businesses and making anything and bringing communities together.

    Watch Impact Video

    Movies to Watch

    • Demain (Tomorrow)
      Filmmakers Mélanie Laurent and Cyril Dion travel worldwide to investigate concrete solutions to environmental and social challenges.

    • Before the Flood
      Presented by National Geographic, the documentary features Leonardo DiCaprio on a journey as a United Nations Messenger of Peace, travelling to five continents and the Arctic to witness climate change first hand.

    • The True Cost
      The price of clothing has been decreasing for decades, while the human and environmental costs have grown dramatically. The True Cost is a groundbreaking documentary film that pulls back the curtain on the untold story and asks us to consider: who really pays the price for our clothing?

    • Real Value
      Real Value is an award-winning economics documentary that delivers a refreshing meditation on how business can be used to create value beyond profit. The film serves as inspiration for any business owner, entrepreneur, or customer who is looking to better understand what happens when a business puts people, planet, and profit on an equal footing.

    Newsletters and Blogs

    • Invest With Values: The Investors Gateway to Positive Change, a free educational resource for local banking, community investing, impact investing, and socially responsible investing.

    • Cause Artist: The Social Enterprise Lifestyle Magazine. Submit and discover brands, startups, and social entrepreneurs impacting the world through social enterprise.

    • Future Economy Network: The hub of unforgettable events, bespoke communication & marketing support and good news stories for the sustainable business sector.

    • ImpactAlpha is redefining business media around social and environmental value, just as impact investing is redefining finance.

    • Stanford Social Innovation Review is a magazine and website that covers cross-sector solutions to global problems. SSIR is written for and by social change leaders in the nonprofit, business, and government sectors who view collaboration as key to solving environmental, social, and economic justice issues.

    • TIIME Blog: The TIIME blog contains articles discussing key issues in Sustainability and Impact.

    Social Entrepreneurs: The Mindset to Bring Bold and Creative Solutions to Create Social Change

    There are many examples of social entrepreneurs that have brought their innovative ideas to life. Rainer Höll from Ashoka takes us through some of his favourites in this TED talk.
    Rainer’s presentation features the following social entrepreneurs:

    • Henri Dunant: founder of the Red Cross
    • Miguel Luengo-Oroz: speeding up malaria detection with a mobile app game
    • Sakena Yacoobi: Afghan Institute of Learning founder
    • Servane Mouazan: the CEO of Ogunte, an organisation that helps female social entrepreneurs bring about a positive change in people’s lives
    • Arnaud Raskin: working with street children as a school and to train corporates
    • Audrey Cheng: Moringa School, software development education in Kenya
    • Frank Hoffmann: training blind women to detect breast cancer
    • Brit Gilmore: The Giving Keys, an organisation that employs poor people to make necklaces from engraved keys offering employment to the homeless
    • Raul Krauthausen: Wheel Map founder, used to rate wheelchair accessibility of buildings and businesses
    • Ursala Sladek: pinoneer of the community green energy movement
    • Albina Ruiz: tackling garbage with collection microbusinesses
    • Pradip Sarmah: founder of a rickshaw bike bank allowing leasing to ownership
    • Mohammed Yunus: founder of the Grameen bank and microfinance industry pioneer
    • Matt Flannery and Jessica Jackley: kiva microlending platform founders
    • Jimmy Wales: Wikipedia co-founder

    Having an innovative idea is only the start! Lluis Pareras, a venture capital investor, explains why he rejects 98% of business plans and and shares 5 things that successful social entrepreneurs have in common.

    Books to Read

    TED Talks to Watch

    Deep Dive

    Social Innovation as a Trigger for Transformations - The Role of Research (European Commission, Sept 2017). This Policy Paper examines the role of Social Innovation in Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) research: from history, approaches to opportunities and implementation.

    Social Entreneurship Resources

    Measuring and Managing Impact Resources


    Mentorship Opportunities

    • Expert Impact is an organisation specifically for introducing social entrepreneurs to mentors. for free mentoring and advice.

    • UnLtd, the foundation for social entrepreneurs, also offer a mentoring service to social enterprises they award grants to. And of course, many of the programmes that we run include helping you to find a mentor too.

    • Membership body Social Enterprise UK has a dedicated events section on its website.

    • Pioneers Post is a social enterprise magazine with a newsletter you can sign up to that often lists sector meetups.

    • Business incubators and accelerators often match enterprises with mentors too.
      • Hatch is one that focuses on social enterprises and has a gallery of diverse mentors, many from blue chip companies.
      • Several corporates also provide support for social entrepreneurs, including PwC UK, who run a Social Entrepreneurs Club that promises mentoring opportunities.

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