Supporting The Social Innovation Landscape
The field of social innovation is growing rapidly and has the potential to solve the world’s most pressing problems. While we are thrilled to see the multiplying impact of social entrepreneurship, it would not be possible without some of the organizations that are investing in these solutions by creating platforms, deploying resources, and convening leaders to address these issues. These entities are the groups that nurture and create an environment suited to solving social challenges.
Today, there are thousands of organizations focused on funding social innovators, ranging from the White House with its Social Innovation Fund, to NGO’s such as Center for Social Innovation, and venture capital firms such as the Acumen Fund and Impact Engine. Each of these organizations deploys financial resources with the aim to fund social innovation whether through philanthropy such as The Giving Pledge, or via impact investments. Bringing social innovation to scale and having it fulfill its promise would be impossible without this funding. A case in point is Better Shelter, a social enterprise that develops and provides innovative housing solutions for persons displaced by armed conflicts and natural disaster. Better Shelter began as a small design and innovation project in Sweden, but was brought to life by the backing of Ikea Foundation and UNHRC, the UN Refugee Agency.
There are also organizations dedicated to providing resources to help social entrepreneurs. Specialized incubators and accelerators such as Benetech Labs and Village Capital are entities preparing ideas for growth by providing guidance and mentorship, typically in exchange for equity in the company. These networks provide office space and facilities and guidance from accountants, marketers and business advisers to help social impact entrepreneurs succeed. For examplw, Boston based MassChallenge is a not for profit, start-up friendly accelerator helping early-stage entrepreneurs and connecting them with a network of other accelerators globally.
Innovative ideas require inventive inspiration and conferences such as 10.10.10 and Social Innovation Summit aimed to provide exactly that. 10.10.10 seeks to generate “entrepreneur-driven solutions to the world’s wicked problems” and the Social Innovation Summit of 2016 represents a “global convening of black swans and wayward thinkers.” SOCAP is “dedicated to accelerating a new global market at the intersection of money & meaning” and PopTech is a “global community of innovators, working together to expand the edge of change.” Each of these events is focused on bringing innovators together – creating synergies that address social issues too large to tackle singularly.
Our own hometown of Austin, Texas is quickly becoming a social innovation capital. Well known for our unique focus on relationships and networking across sectors, Austin’s social innovation scene hosts a myriad of the enablers mentioned above and an impressive ecosystem designed to foster social innovation. Take The Notley Fund for example – founded by local Austinites, this entity invests in nonprofits and businesses that create a positive impact on people’s lives and invests in social ventures aiming to solve global problems. Another example is highlighted through the work of Capital Factory, which serves as an incubator dedicated to social innovation in downtown Austin. Austin is also home to VERB which “runs competitions and prizes that solve wicked problems” worldwide. But perhaps the most popular and reflective of the city’s unique culture is SXSW, a several week conference and festival designed to foster creative discovery and social enterprise.
At Digital Union, we are as committed to integrating social purpose into your mission as we are proud to call Austin our home. And we’re looking forward to hosting you in our city for SXSW or helping you discover impact in your own company or city – come and discover the value of fusing Profit + Purpose!
Maggie & Hector