Connect with Social Innovation Exchange

By Konstantin Lazutin, an intern with the Social Innovation Exchange where he is involved in building and maintaining a “network of social innovation networks”, as well as finding new ways to promote innovative thinking around the world.

In one of his speeches on social innovation, Geoff Mulgan, former-CEO of The Young Foundation and world-famous champion of social innovation, compared the current innovation landscape to a forest with trees and bees. The bees, according to him, are individuals, activists and academics, who have great ideas but no power to implement them. The trees are large organisations, government agencies and transnational corporations, who have great power, but no ideas. Observing this kind of divergence all over the world, Geoff decided to finally do something to bring the bees and the trees together, allowing for cross-pollination of ideas.

In 2008 while working at the Young Foundation, he created Social Innovation Exchange (SIX) an organisation to bring together individuals and companies all over the world committed to social innovation. Today SIX has grown into a global community of over 3000 individuals and organisations ranging from individuals and small NGOs to public agencies and global firms united by their drive to promote social innovation. Over the past 3 years SIX has become the world’s primary social innovation network and a reputable source for research, action and intelligence.

Today, SIX runs a range of activities and projects enabling people to collaborate and share their ideas. SIX is active on the Internet, maintaining its online presence through two websites. One is, where you can find up to date social innovation news, publications, case studies, blogs, organisations and events. When you want to get updates on the latest within social innovation around the world, this is a good place to look. The other is – an evolving repository of methods and tools for social innovation. The website is a result of a two year study carried out by the Young Foundation and UK’s National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) to survey, map and improve the many methods used for social innovation around the world. The result is an invaluable source of information on various aspects of innovation including financing, user involvement, design, measurement and evaluations, and growth.

Seasons of Change

Probably the most well known are our international events, specifically the SIX Spring and Summer Schools, which are intensive and highly useful courses on social innovation. We take one current global challenge, people of varying ages and experiences, allow plenty of time for open space learning and collaboration, and keep traditional speeches and lectures to a minimum.

In 2008, SIX held its inaugural International Summer School in Spain on Scaling Up Social Innovation that focused on the practical challenges of social innovation, specifically how successful innovations could be grown and replicated. In July 2009 the second Summer School on Recovery Through Innovation attracted 125 people from 24 countries to Lisbon, Portugal. Following their successes, SIX and the City, the 2010 Summer School was held in Singapore with participants discussing issues of social innovation in urban areas tackling issues from chronic diseases to climate change and carbon reduction.

To respond to the growing need in the social innovation community for more opportunities to meet and discuss, SIX held the first Spring School in May 2010. The event was titled Innovation and Opportunity in an Ageing Society and again, brought together participants from all over the world to work together responding to the challenges of the ageing population. As a result, several projects were replicated and put into practice in various parts of the world. The latest Spring School was held in May 2011 in Amsterdam and was devoted to Co-creating Democracy: Citizen Passion in the 21st Century. The event aimed to examine the concept of civilian co-creation and brought together individual activists, journalists and members of governments.

TelePresence Series

One of the most exciting events hosted by SIX is the TelePresence series. The series that started in 2009 in partnership with Cisco Systems provides a unique opportunity for members of the SIX community all over the globe to meet and discuss vital issues through videoconferencing. Bringing together activists who would otherwise hardly mert, the TelePresence series focuses on enhancing social innovation collaboration and shaping the policy agenda worldwide. It is a chance for the members of the SIX network to meet face to face, even if they are oceans apart. The latest sessions in 2011 have been devoted to issues of urban development, social innovation funding, social impact bonds and others, while the upcoming conferences will focus on creating hubs for social innovation and tackle the problems of creating an innovation climate.

Europe to the Forefront of Innovation

Finally, probably our most ambitious project is the Social Innovation Europe (SIE) launched in March 2011 by SIX and the European Commission. The initiative represents a major effort to build and streamline the social innovation field in Europe. It will run over 2 years until December 2012 and will work to connect policy makers, entrepreneurs, academics and third sector workers with innovators across Europe. The ultimate goal of the project is to become a hub, a meeting place where innovative thinkers from all over Europe can come together to create vigorous social innovation in Europe and lead its practice globally.

The SIE initiative involves three approaches:

  • Publishing a series of reports and recommendations for action that will define, analyse and support the best practices in the field. The first report, Financing Social Innovation, will soon be published by the European Commission, while the other two, Scaling Up Success and Future Directions are due to come out in late 2011 and 2012 respectively.

  • Creating an online hub, The website aims to become an indispensable resource providing the latest information on European social innovation from case studies of successful ventures to in-depth analysis from the leading thinkers in the field. Already full of helpful information, the hub welcomes new members willing to learn or contribute their knowledge.

  • Hosting a series of events across Europe to bring social innovators together and build partnerships across sectors. The upcoming events will take place in Poland (December 2011) and Denmark (September 2012) and will allow industry leaders to discuss, analyse and shape the direction of the social innovation field.

  • Invitation to join

    While SIX is still a relatively young organisation with a little over 3 years of history under its belt, a lot has been done to spur social innovation in Europe and all over the world. However, there is still a long road ahead of us, a lot more projects to implement and a lot more issues to tackle. We would like to invite everybody with an interest in innovation to join us on our websites to learn, discuss and collaborate, creating new communities and mapping an innovative future, together.