Innovation of Social Concepts


We are waiting for better ideas to improve society. But should we design them deliberately rather than wait?

One thing is certain – governments need much better ideas. A little less-of-the same ideas and strategies is no longer an option. The stage where changes in choices and cuts can solve our problems, is already far behind us.

Almost all social concepts in the Western world date back to the  beginning of the 20th century, when the first labour and social welfare laws were introduced. Social concepts are arrangements to achieve a certain social function, for example the training of the labour force, or guaranteeing public health. A school is a social concept, so is a library, health insurance, home care, a passport, a soup kitchen, a museum, and justice.

Innovations in business can be designed and so can social innovation.  Social innovation has to do with radical new ways social functions could be delivered. And new social concepts can be designed, and that does not differ that much from business innovation and creating new business models. Designing is an active process. And a new social innovation concept may lead to new businesses.

Learn from ideas and innovative concepts

The street newspaper is an example of an innovative social concept. Homeless can buy street newspapers for a pound and sell them on the street for two pounds. A bit income and regularity for the homeless, and a chance to turn life around. These types of initiatives also reduce the level of petty crime in the streets. Below is a list of examples of social innovations around the world.

  •  Bicycle parking stations in cities, run by the unemployed.
  • An alternative to unemployment benefits for the blind exists in Spain. The association for the blind has the exclusive right to selling lottery tickets, which provides some 40,000 blind people with  their livelihood.
  • Amber Alert  – in a case of a lost  child,  the police sends a SMS to volunteers. This concept was enforced by Child Alert, in which volunteers send via e-mail a photo of a missing child , then locally posters are printed and spread in the city or village all over the country.
  • Inviting Beta-parents (parents who studied and work in exact sciences) into the class room of secondary schools is a concept to have more children interested in a study in math, physics and chemistry.
  • Rent-a-Bob in Belgium and the Netherlands is a good example of a new business concept, and at the same time a social innovation. A chauffeur drives you home in your own car after a too pleasant evening in a pub.
  • Spanish residents who want to study English organize evenings with English speaking expats who want to speak Spanish. They come together once a week, and the first hour the conversation is in Spanish, the second hour in English.
  • Crowd-sourcing of municipal maintenance tasks is a concept where citizens take pictures of street prolapses, broken streetlights and litter and send those to the municipal authorities.In Japan, there are “Talk corners” staffed by volunteers. There you can talk about things you are worried about. And in Amsterdam, is an in the Central Station an “area manager”, who is responsible for the tidiness of the area.
  • In a troublesome district, the police are experimenting with the use of a professional “Angry Viewers” against nuisance youths. The idea comes from a practice in  some martial arts where the opponents, before starting the fight, during a minute try to intimidate each other, by looking very angry at each other.
  • In Switzerland, a new concept has been introduced  to prevent animal maltreatment. Each canton has an animal lawyer who represents  animals in court.
  • Usufruct  is a new concept that allows homeowners over 72 years to sell their homes, but there are to live for the rest of their lives. In exchange for the sale, they receive a lifelong pension.
  • Banks play an important social role in the management and development of trade. Mobile Banking, by which all banking transactions can be dealt with over the  telephone, fulfills  a huge need in part of Africa.
  • In Japan, there are Love Hotels that meet the needs of couples to make love undisturbed.  Students and young people continue to live at home longer because of the costs, so there would be an increased social need for the hotels.  This is an example where a social trend leads to new businesses.
  • Microcredit  and Microfinance.

Where do we need new social concepts?

Some examples where we are urgently waiting for new concepts, or better we should do a deliberate attempt to design new approaches could be:

  • Health care
  • Pension
  • Social welfare
  • Innovation policy
  • Library
  • Commercial bank
  • Education in Mathematics
  • Economic policy
  • Universities
  • CO2  reduction policy
  • Charity

For more about social concepts look here. And watch the video below to find out why data scientist Jake Porway wants to hook up developers with charities and the developing world.

Photo “Crowd Of People” by xedos4


13 Replies to “Innovation of Social Concepts”

  1. The Human Library: Don’t Judge a Book By its Cover
    The Human Library™ is designed to build a positive framework for conversations that can challenge stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue.
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