What is social innovation?

A must-know concept for entrepreneurs who want to have a real impact on the world
Social innovation is the process of creating, securing support, and implementing new solutions to social needs and problems. It is our bridge towards a more prosperous, just, and sustainable world.

In recent years, Saudi Arabia’s interest in social innovation has increased rapidly, to the point where many institutions and conferences have been established revolving around the sector. These include the National Center for the Non-Profit Sector, Misk Foundation, the Social Innovation Forum from the Asbar Center, and the Social Innovation Camp at Princess Nourah bint Abdul Rahman University, but what is social innovation?

 

Definition of Social Innovation

If you dream of being an entrepreneur who leaves a real impact on the world, it is imperative that you get familiar with this term. Although its meaning has expanded since, it was defined in 2003 by the Center for Social Innovation at Stanford Graduate School of Business as "the process of creating, securing support, and implementing new solutions to social needs and problems."

The basis of social innovation is to create solutions to problems and respond to social needs in a more effective way than the currently used solutions, for example in the field of education, community development, and health. These solutions are put forward in order to build a modern, civilized society that keeps pace with the developments of the times and the tools available to humanity.

Pathways to Social Innovation

According to Professor of Organizational Behavior Priya Nair Rajiv, President of the Center of Excellence for Social Innovation, social innovation in entrepreneurship takes different forms that can be summarized in the following three paths: 

  • Corporate Social Responsibility:

Which entails responsible business practices, social contribution, project implementation, partnerships, and impact assessment.

  • Corporate Social Innovation:

Which entails changes in business models and practices, triple bottom line, circular economy, and intrapreneurship.

  • Social Entrepreneurship:

Which entails combining profit generation with social value creation, getting support from impact investors, and creating an ecosystem for solutions. 

 

An overview of social innovation in Saudi Arabia:

The center was established in the context of the development of the non-profit sector, which is a strategic goal within the Vision 2030 plan aimed at empowering the sector and achieving a greater impact on the social and economic levels. The center is one of the initiatives of the National Transformation Program for the development of the non-profit sector.

The Prince Mohammed bin Salman non-profit city project, which came as a realization of the vision of His Highness the Crown Prince to support Saudi youth in the areas of innovation, entrepreneurship, and qualifying future leaders.

The forum was held in February 2022 in Al Madinah, the first of its kind at the regional level in promoting innovation and distinctive ideas which provide effective social solutions to the most pressing problems of society. Targeted creative thinkers, owners of innovative social enterprises, both from the governmental and the private non-profit sector. 

The camp was held in August 2021 as a training program specialized in raising awareness of social innovation and social entrepreneurship, qualifying the Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University students for innovation and the creation of pioneering ideas to develop sustainable social solutions.


Social innovation is the bridge between us and change. It gives us implementable solutions that result in a more prosperous, just, and sustainable world, and through it we can overcome many of the obstacles we face as humanity. The best part about it is that it can be learned. If you are interested in social innovation, you should register in the Misk Innovation Diwan program, which gives you a unique opportunity to deepen your understanding of this term and to practice it in reality.

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