Social Innovation: We Need Businesses and Communities Working Together

Posted by on September 7, 2012 in charity, Entrepreneurship, Non-Profit, Strategy, World

The most powerful component within social innovation is collaboration. There are signs that this new approach is helping shape the planet’s future. There is huge support for collaborative, multi-sector processes focused on modest initiatives; now is also the time for corporations to take on the challenges, work locally across sectors and push for better reporting, and more accountability. It’s a view supported by former U.S President, Bill Clinton who at a recent appearance in Oxford at Resource 2012, called for more to be done to persuade voters to support schemes that tackle global warming and resource scarcity. He highlighted his view of a multi-sector strategy and that the way forward is not more conferences with politicians, but lies in the ability of governments, businesses and NGOs to work together.

With the collapse of intergovernmental and global processes, it is becoming clear that we must use new mechanisms and social innovation that bring businesses and communities together. Sustainability must be advanced through collaborations among multiple business sectors, levels of government and not- for-profit organisations. Politicians no longer lead the process; instead they work with those who can identify issues and propose solutions. A good example of how this has worked well is collaborative water stewardship.

Companies in the developing world have stepped in to bridge the water network gap and between 2000 and 2007 the number of people served by private water operators in emerging markets almost doubled from 94 million to more than 160 million.

Now businesses are playing an integral role in supporting sustainable development through access to portable water and sanitation. In a world where vast amounts of information are widely accessible and corporate transparency is fundamental to leading companies, businesses are now meeting the demands from consumers, investors, regulators and the NGO community to work holistically and together. I have recently written about big, global brands such asHershey, PepsiCo and Chrysler which are leading on innovative environmental and community projects. These corporations have focused on stewardship in direct operations, supply chain, collective action, public policy andcommunity engagement.

These efforts are a direct reflection of the corporate sector’s understanding of their role in stewardship in the face of dwindling natural resources. For the planet as whole to survive and succeed, we need social innovation, new ways to define and measure goals, and achievements. Saving the planet is no longer the work of political leaders or even superheroes. It is down to us all – grass root communities, small, big businesses and organisations to create combined solutions. Together, we are the real superheroes to save the planet.

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Sangeeta Haindl is a staff writer for Justmeans on Social Enterprise. When not writing for Justmeans, Sangeeta wears her other hat as a PR professional. Over the years, she has worked with high-profile organizations within the public, not-for-profit and corporate sectors; and won awards from her industry. She now runs her own UK consultancy: Serendipity PR & Media.


Justmeans is the world’s leading source of information and connections for the sustainable business industry. Founded in 2008, the company rapidly grew its online community of practitioners, investors, journalists, activists, and students to 250,000 registered users. A wide variety of companies rely on Justmeans news distribution services to create, distribute, and analyze performance on media releases related to social and environmental performance. Justmeans is also the publisher of the Social Innovation Awards and a number of leading conferences in the sustainable business industry.

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