Category Archives: Uncategorized

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:

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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The Museum Method

Hong Kong is a city known for its impressive skyline and a buzzing urban scene. In Hong Kong, the incessant urban renewals happening around the city has changed and shaped the space in which people live in as well as the memories of those who live there.

In this vibrant city, a small group of art curators, designers and cultural researchers formed a research and curatorial collective on vernacular visual culture and “indigenous” creativity called Community Museum Project (CMP) in 2002. The “museum” in the title refers not to the hardware – physical building where objects are stored and exhibited – but to the methodology of museum. CMP uses “museum” as a method to visualise community values, indigenous knowledge and social relationships.

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A Dump with a Difference: The Future of Landfills in South Africa

The idea for Marianhill came about the mid-1990s before the Kyoto Protocol was even signed. Gunning for a conservancy status for the landfill from the start, e’Thekwini instituted a meaningful consultative process with residents and civil society.

Large waste removal vehicles travel to the smallest landfill of the e’Thekwini Municipality, located 31kms outside Durban, the capital city of the KwaZulu-Natal province. The Mariannhill Landfill only receives 450 tonnes of general municipal waste from the surrounding areas of Pinetown, Westville, Queensborough and Kloof. As these vehicles enter the site, a sign welcomes visitors to enjoy the birds and animals in the grasslands, forests and wetlands.

Bucking every waste management trend in South Africa, the Mariannhill Landfill Conservancy is a dump with a difference. At Mariannhill there are no unpleasant odours or a speck of litter strewn about. The site is separated from the surrounding middle-income and low-cost housing areas by only 200 metres of indigenous plants and trees.

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The Butterfly Project – submitted by Social Enterprise Africa CIC

Organisation: Social Enterprise Africa CIC


The challenge and solution: The challenge is to evolve the undoubted capability and talent in African rural villages and dangerous slums into effective charismatic social entrepreneurs that can remove poverty and develop vision amongst every village in his or her locale.

The solution is the Butterfly Project, where children are located in remote villages and slums, they are interviewed to assess their mindset and desire for change, then they are assessed for their skillset to be a social entrepreneur, then recruited onto the project.  We then work jointly with them and their village elders, feeding in knowledge and information gradually through the project member and facilitating the development of new high value “demonstration” crops.

© Social Enterprise Africa CIC

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