Journey of Social Innovation in Asia

The What Works project team, along with our colleagues from the Young Foundation, were in Seoul a few weeks ago participating in the Asia NGO Innovation Summit (ANIS) 2012.

ANIS is a platform for social innovators in Asia to exchange their ideas, experiences, skills and best practices of social innovation. The theme of this year’s ANIS was ‘collaboration across different sectors’ and true to its theme, the event was organised by organisations representing the three sectors: The Hope Institute coming from the social sector, Intel from the private sector and Seoul Development Institute, representing the public sector.

At ANIS, we were all inspired by the remarkable stories of social innovation and the people behind the social change. We were struck by the sense of optimism, entrepreneurialism and energy emanating from Asia with the emergence of new opportunities and types of agency, as well as the overwhelming scale and pace of change, and the urgency of new social, economic and environmental challenges and needs.

Festeza performing at ANIS *
© The Hope Institute

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Learning for creativity, innovation and empathy: Lessons from Asia

The more developed Asian countries, such as Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong etc., have education system that are widely perceived to be highly efficient and effective. These education systems have been one of the cornerstones on which Asian economies have developed rapidly over the last few decades. However, we are now seeing a small but growing movement reacting against these traditional approaches to education and their focus on grades, university entrance exams and jobs in the public sector and large firms. Some are beginning to criticize this mainstream education system for failing to provide the skills that are increasingly being demanded in the globalized economy. The detractors perceive this traditional approach to education as stifling creative thinking and empathy among young people.

Thought Collective, Singapore

In Singapore, the Thought Collective aims to change the educational paradigm through a multi-pronged approach, running four social enterprises, including School of Thought, Food for Thought, Think Tank and Thinkscape.

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Think Café: An online/offline social technology model

Think Café is an online/offline social technology model for engaging people in conversations that matter. It provides a space and time for ordinary people to question, discuss, document, share and collaborate in creating a vision for the future. It is also a medium through which knowledge, thoughts and experiences are shared and distributed, especially of those who are excluded from the traditional media.

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Organization Unbound

The What Works team met Warren Nilsson and Tana Paddock from Organisation Unbound during our research trip to South Africa. Organization Unbound attempts to re-imagine the way we think about and engage in social change.

They sent us the following link to a talk that Warren gave at University of Cape Town last month that summarizes experiential/expressive approach to social innovation.  

Few social purpose organizations spend much time looking at how their own organizational cultures support or hinder the kinds of changes in the world they are working so hard to create. In this talk, Warren challenges us to consider how much of our current difficulty in fostering and scaling social innovation is bound up in this disconnect. What kind of change might we create if we took our organizational practices more seriously as leverage points for social innovation?

For more information, go to:

Orange Bag Domestic Recycling Project

This example showcases the first city-wide recycling initiative in South Africa, E’Thekwini’s Orange Bag Domestic Recycling Project. This project illustrates an effective public-private partnership model that involves citizens, local businesses, social entrepreneurs and local government. It harnesses the desire to recycle by making it convenient for citizens, profitable for businesses, beneficial for civil society and local government.

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Sanergy: Making the most of the sanitation value chain

There are a multitude issues that social innovators and social entrepreneurs are trying to tackle in meaningful ways around the world. However, throughout the course of our conversations and travels, there has been one issue in particular that has crossed boundaries and continents. This issue is that of sanitation.

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Seongmisan: A village within a city

Seongmisan community is an urban community located within the City of Seoul. The residents in the area around a hill called Seongmisan have created a cooperative “village” model within the urban context, where faceless individualism and fierce sense of competition is prevalent. What is unique about Seongmisan community is that it was able to create a location-based, traditional “village-like” solidarity among residents through active participation and collaboration of community projects. The continuous trust and relationship-building among residents was the key to creating what proved to be an innovative and resilient community within an urban context.

© The Hope Institute

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Ushahidi: Collaborative crisis mapping

“Ushahidi is a child of collaboration on the internet”

“Ushahidi”, which means “testimony” in Swahili, is a website set up by a collaboration of Kenyan citizen journalists during a time of crisis in Kenya, after the post-election fall-out at the beginning of 2008, to map incidents of violence and peace efforts throughout the country based on reports submitted via the web and mobile phones.


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Well Told Story

“Well Told Story combines the power of good stories with strategy, creativity, deep analysis and hard science, to design and produce communications that spur positive social changes that can be proved and measured.”

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6 supports that enable (social) innovation

There are a few ideas that have been pretty uniform in the interviews we have been conducting, and reflections we’ve been having for the past few months…

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