Social innovation may seem like the new hipster concept on the ‘do-good’ block, but in reality it has been evolving longer than we may realize. Ask Ashoka–an organization whose founder Bill Drayton literally coined the term “social entrepreneur” and which has been facilitating and supporting social innovation for over 30 years.npr logoNational Public Radio (NPR) has featured a number of stories and interviews over the past decade that trace the growth and evolution of social entrepreneurship, at a systemic level. Below are a few that help set the scene for understanding where social innovation has been and where it is going.EvolvingIn listening to interviews over the expanse of a decade there seems to be a kind of progression in the movement of social innovation. Starting from concept and practice by specific efforts in developing countries that harnessed the power of entrepreneurship in the context of social change, social innovation gained support through focused support and vibrant community (i.e. Ashoka’s Fellowship program). The concept seems to have grown to a level of recognition calling for academic study (i.e. new courses, centers for study) and governance (i.e. White House Office of Social Innovation) to investment (i.e. green venture capitalism).

The next logical step may be legislated change (such as benefit corporation) that would enable social entrepreneurs to recognize of multiple stakeholders beyond shareholders (i.e. the ‘triple bottom line‘ of people, planet, profits) and focus on creating material positive impact.

NPR Interviews on Social Innovation

1. Social Entrepreneurs – January 2004

Neal Conan talks to a panel of social entrepreneurs in this episode of Talk of the Nation. The panelists introduce social capitalism as a concept and how it differs–but complements–traditional business and non-profit work. The panelists talk about specific problems they each recognized and how they engineered social entrepreneurial solutions.

There is discussion and questions from callers including an interesting caller perspective (at 20:40) regarding the relationship between systemic change and social entrepreneurship, and a question by a caller wondering why Muhammed Yunus had not yet won a Nobel Prize. (He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize two years after the interview, in 2006)

The panel includes:

NPR’s Pam Fessler reports on the new initiative by President Obama’s administration established in 2009 in this piece for Morning Edition. The White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation (SICP) was created to identify non-profit solutions to broad issues such as homelessness and poverty and develop solutions that could be expanded.

Citing organizations such as Teach for America, Fessler notes that successful concepts such as these often face challenges in expanding and growing for lack for funds and infrastructure. And these are the types of projects that the new initiative hopes to support.

Fessler also reports on naysayers to the new office. Those such as blogger Allison Fine claim that true social innovation requires more risk—taking a chance on an idea that hasn’t been proven–rather than one that has experienced success in a small-scale setting.

3. Change You Can Invest In: Social Entrepreneurship – December 2010

NPR Education Correspondent Larry Abramson reports on the growth and evolution of the field of social entrepreneurship and takes a look at how social innovation has found its way to academia at universities such as the University of Maryland’s Center for Social Value Creation, which is part of the business school.

In this report for Morning Edition, he talks with social entrepreneurs such as David Wish of Little Kids Rock about the original social innovation institution—Ashoka—and it’s ability to support and connect social entrepreneurs. Abramson also talks to non-profit consultants such as Chuck Harris about the importance of making non-profits work more like corporations for efficiency and to ensure oversight.

Hear More From NPR

Interested in hearing more? Here are more NPR interviews on social innovation that caught our eye.

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