The world today faces a serious innovation gap. In fields ranging from chronic disease to climate change we badly need more effective models and solutions.

This paper examines how social innovation happens in NGOs, the public sector, movements and markets. It looks at the history of great social innovators – from Robert Owen to Wangari Maathai – and at the roles played by social movements, governments, businesses and NGOs. It makes the case for much more sympathetic initiatives to tap the ubiquitous intelligence that exists in every society and to increase the chances of social innovations succeeding.

Silicon Valley and its counterparts have shown what can be achieved when intelligence and investment are devoted to innovation in technology. Over the next few decades, we argue that comparable investment and attention need to be directed to innovations that address compelling unmet social needs.

Civil Society Social action Social innovation

Posted on: 5 March 2006


The Young Foundation

The UK’s home for community research and social innovation.

Visit The Young Foundation

Peer Research Network

Driving quality and innovation in peer research. 

Visit our network

Institute for Community Studies

A new kind of research body with people at its heart. 

Visit our research institute

© The Young Foundation 2022