The Evolution of Social Innovation in Sustainable Development
The idea of social innovation has been around as long as humans have, we just may not have used those exact words to describe the act of creating tools to solve a problem. Since the Middle Paleolithic, about 200,000 years ago, we have been crafting up solutions to our problems. Whether it be turning fur into a coat to keep us warm from the elements or ways in which to delegate important roles in our tribal society, we have been innovating for our societies with products and solutions.
Fast-forward a few hundred thousand years and you will land in our current day and age surrounded by not only solutions created by us, but also problems created by us. Yes, mankind sure does love creating, so much so that we forgot to stop along the way and see just how sustainable some of our creations are. We have climate change, deforestation, gender inequality, and a dependence on single-use plastic, just to name a few issues. Luckily, the United Nations along with other entities have crafted up the global Sustainable Development Goals for us to work towards. This is where the conscientious modern social innovator, that is you, comes into play.
Social innovators will not only need to utilize the positive potential for innovation to address the Sustainable Development Goals, but will also need to be cognizant that some forms of present-day innovation do contribute to environmental degradation, and are disruptive of livelihoods or exacerbate inequalities. As we create and solve problems, we should always be reflecting on the ripple effect of our solutions. Is this style of production and consumption necessary? Do all end-users and stakeholders want or need something like this? Are we aiding the three pillars of sustainability (economic, environmental, social) or creating more harmful innovations?