There are several ways to design a new concept deliberately. But what is a new concept? Not many people have a quick answer to this question, other than “differently than expected”, “something else as normal”, “not seen before” or just “interesting”.
One of the easiest ways to design a new concept is to escape from an existing concept. For that, we need a concise description of the existing concept, otherwise we will be lost in all the details containing in the concept.
In an earlier blog post we gave some handles to describe a concept:
- Give it an appealing name;
- What is the function of the concept: aim, goal, objective? What should be achieved?
- Wat is the mechanism or working principle? How does it work? How is the function carried out?
- What are the values of the concept: advantages, positives, the importance, worth, or usefulness, merits, beneficial? Why does the concept deserve to exist? For who else?
- Football match
- The function of a football match is to exercise sports
- The working principle is that there are two teams that try to get the football into each others goals, according to rules.
- It is valued as entertainment, physical exercise, social exchange
Escape for instance the mechanism: instead of two there are three teams and three goals.
You can imagine that three-sided football will be a real game-changer, literally. As the BBC mentioned: a game of alliance and betrayal. The whole dynamic of the game is dramatically changed.
Once a new concept has”opened up” in your mind, we might “see” the world in a disruptive way, through the new concept and take analogies from it.
For instance: the conflict in Syria is basically a three-side game. That might open up new strategies and policies for military planning and diplomacy. Or prevent from blundering into military and diplomatic disasters by interpreting wrongly a three actors situation as a classical two actors cold war situation.
Or we can apply the same concept escape to another two-sided game, f.i. three player chess
We could also escape from the aspect of values, by excluding, adding, or changing values.
Escape from values: add spectacle to the game.
Ideas: change the game from 2D into 3D, using acrobats.
Actually, the concept change is from 2 D to 3D. This new concept can then be applied to other 2D games and opens new possibilities, like 3D chess
The same we could apply to escaping from function (goal, aim or objective of the concept). F.i. the function of a pension is that people who can’t work any longer are provided with a minimum of money to survive.
We could change the function: let’s suppose that the aim of “pension” is to keep the retiree as long as healthy. Now we can come up with mechanism that could realise this new function. For instance that the retiree does not receive a fix amount of money per year during the rest of his life time, but a linear increasing one. This would stimulate the retiree to stay active during the first years of his pension, by doing some paid work during some hours in the week.
Many new business models are the result of changing one or more aspects of the concept description. See for example how these fast-growing, innovative companies are redefining money lending, e-commerce, and more,
We invite you to describe how their innovative business models differ from classic business models in terms of function, mechanism and value.
According to a Dutch report, the number of people with intellectual disabilities getting paid care, increased between 1998 and 2011 fivefold (the figures for other Western countries will not be much different)
The large increase is not because more people have a disability, but because the diagnosis is now made more often by changing demands in society. This would be partly because more and more digital services, such as Internet banking and the smartcard, have becomm widely available. That someone has a mild intellectual disability is by that more likely to be noticed.
The number of people with intellectual disabilities getting paid care are increasing because more and more services become digital available.
It is normally assumed that (digital) technology will make our existence easier, yet large population groups are excluded from participation in society by using the same (digital) technology.
Instead they get paid off for their inconvenience, caused by a poor design of digital services.
Technology should be used to make things more simple. Techology that make thinks more complex is simple of a very poor design quality, even for not intelectual disabled.
Is nonconformity and freethinking a mental illness? According to the newest addition of the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), it certainly is. The manual identifies a new mental illness called “oppositional defiant disorder” or ODD. Defined as an “ongoing pattern of disobedient, hostile and defiant behavior,” symptoms include questioning authority, negativity, defiance, argumentativeness, and being easily annoyed. The behavior pattern should last at least 6 months. In the past, these were called “personality traits” but now they are classified as diseases – See more at The Mind Unleashed.
Disobedient, hostile, defiant, questioning authority, negativity,argumentativeness. Take them to mental institutions.
Today “psychologising” seems no more than a confirmation of daily practice in schools, courts and newspapers, even in international relations. An accountant in a bank found that the reserves were too low. He was fired, but fought his dismissal in court. The judge found that the accountant had “a problem with authority”. A public servant leaked official documents about serious abuses after he had raised the issue several times internally. He was fired because of serious “dereliction of duty”. Basically, it is all about obedience.
Many whistle-blowers are diagnosed with a mental disorder. Not that they are ill, but to neutralise them, as they did in the former Soviet Union. It is called “political abuse of psychiatry“, and this new box of mental disease put the gates wide open for abuse.
The authors of the manual aim for better diagnostic practices. It might be that people diagnosed with ODD are not freethinkers, but do for some reason decide to oppose to pretty much everything. They lack ways of being in the world. They lack free thinking because if they could think then they would be free themselves.
We can conclude that the new mental illness of Oppositional Defiant Disorder” has both positive as negative aspects. What is interesting about ODD? Could we reduce the negatives by defining a new psychiatric disorder?
We came up with “Obsessive Compliant Disorder (OCD)”.
Patients diagnosed with OCD have a compulsive need to agree with everyone, will never disturb the atmosphere and will always keep the peace. They never rock the boat. Getting along with others, even if they commit criminal acts, is preferred over becoming upset and angry. They are not able to critical thinking, let alone opposing authorities. Obedience is an important value and they can easily be manipulated into wrongdoings, without being conscious or scrupulous about it. Neurotic in mutual admiration, that is, in a workplace or other social environment, routinely expressing considerable esteem and support for one another, sometimes to the point of exaggeration or pretense.
We hypothesises that people who suffer from OCD are far in the majority, and can be especially found in the upper echelons of governments, newspapers, companies and the judicial system. We assume that the “Obsessive Compliants” outnumber by far the “Oppositional Defiants”. As such, OCD’ers are much more attractive for the pharmaceutical industries.
What if those who suffer from Obsessive Compliant Disorder were early and systematic diagnosed before they enter the workforce or political life?
Is more innovation needed in the social sector? Or is it better to play it safe and not take any risks?
Innovation carry risks and how risky an innovation proves to be depends partly on the choices people make in using new ideas or products. A great example of how the choices we make influence the outcome of an innovation can be seen in the statistics related to snowstorms and four-wheel drives. A four-wheel drive should make your journey safer when you are driving on snow. Yet accident statistics suggest that this is not the case and the use of four-wheel drives has not led to any major changes in the rate of accidents. Why? The technology has led many of us to feel protected and this has meant that we are a bit overconfident when driving on snow. Awareness of the risks involved in driving a four-wheel vehicle on snow means that we can make conscious decisions about our driving, which in turn may lead to fewer accidents. Thus a straightforward analysis of accident statistics may not provide an accurate picture of the effectiveness of four-wheel drives.
In a similar way, innovation in the social sector involves many risks and unless everyone involved is aware of how the innovation should be used, there is a high risk of lack of progress.
Social innovations are new ideas (products, services and models) that simultaneously meet social needs (more effectively than alternatives) and create new social relationships or collaborations.
Today many organisations may feel pushed to innovate, yet funders are often frustrated by the lack of progress. Innovation in the social sector is difficult. A problem is that it may take years for an innovation to be implemented and evaluated. This means that innovation in the social sector is a costly and time-consuming process. An approach towards innovation that involves less risks is to improve upon existing services that the organisation have to offer. Thus, social innovations can take the form of genuine innovations or of improved solutions.
An idea is rarely a finished product and adjustments may be necessary and problems need to be analysed. Thus, funders and everyone involved need to be aware of the importance of improving upon an innovation. Instead of using the same performance measurement system for different types of innovations, it may be better to be more flexible and experiment. After a while, a more stringent testing criteria can be used to evaluate the innovation.
Innovation in the social sector should have a long-term impact and solve problems. But social innovations are not necessarily easy to widely adopt. In contrast, product innovations aims towards gaining market shares and there is usually an identifiable market. As an example of social innovation that tries to tackle a modern problem, we can look at Good Gym works in the UK. This social innovation tries to tackle three challenges.
- the increasing isolation of elderly people,
- the difficulty in finding volunteers to work with these groups,
- the challenges that ordinary people may face in getting physically fit.
In the UK, 13 per cent of elderly people say they always or often feel lonely. The Good Gym connects “runners” with “coaches.” Runners are people who need additional motivation to be physically active, while the coaches are less mobile people over 65. The runners commit to jog to their coach’s house once per week to deliver something nice. A nice surprise could be a newspaper or a price of fruit. The runner chat with the coach and then run back home. Thus the idea is to
- provide a reason for people to run
- to provide lonely people with company.
Measuring the outcome of an innovation like Good Gym, is difficult. Both short-term health aspects need to be considered but also broader effects such as building stronger communities. and improving cross-generational communication. Thus, one approach towards social innovation is to bring together groups of people with different unmet needs. At first glance, the unmet needs of people who lack motivation to be psychically active and elderly lonely people may seem like difficult to combine, yet to make new connections is the beauty of innovation.
n its essence, social innovation simply refers to new approaches and tools for solving societal challenges. It is not simply the repackaging of old ideas. We’ve learned a lot over the past decade about what works and what doesn’t in global health, development, education, sustainability, and many other challenging areas. We’ve learned how to design and deploy interventions. We can now have a strong perspective on which interventions have the potential to truly alter the course of a deadly infectious disease or move millions of young people out of debilitating poverty, based on the evidence of actual outcomes. We believe that the very best social innovations can transform our communities with new approaches to the complex challenges of the 21st century.
However, achieving that kind of impact requires yet another step. Unless a program can be replicated and sustained on a large scale, it will not be transformational. Identifying and scaling our best solutions has become the sector’s most important challenge. To meet that challenge, we can no longer evaluate programs simply based on how well they’ve performed in a given locality. Instead, we need to factor in their potential to achieve scale. We need to channel resources to the solutions that can produce the most good for the most people. As Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, has pointed out, “Solutions to many of the world’s most difficult social problems don’t need to be invented, they need only to be found, funded, and scaled.”
It is incumbent on all of us to understand and vigorously address the barriers that prevent great ideas from turning into transformational changes. Unlike in the private sector, where successful product innovations have a clear process for gaining market share, the best social innovations are not necessarily widely adopted. The “iPods”of poverty alleviation and literacy have likely been invented and put to use by small organizations in some corner of the globe, but there is no market for identifying these breakthrough ideas and ensuring widespread adoption.
Additionally, the private-sector model of mergers and acquisitions, which leads to consolidation and ever increasing efficiency, rarely occurs in the social sector, where organizations with similar missions often find themselves pitted against one another in the competition for funds. Philanthropic funding mechanisms, with their short funding cycles, restricted project grants, and focus on new, rather than proven programs, have not always led to scaling the best social innovations. Besides organizational and financial barriers, there is often a tension between bringing social innovations to scale and ensuring that programs address the needs of local constituents.
Social innovators recognize these barriers and are working to overcome them. Our research points to four major opportunities that support our belief in the power of social innovation and provide insight into the path forward to scaling the most promising solutions:
1. Technology innovation: There has been rapid development of products that can improve the quality of life and health of the huge percentage of the world living in poverty. Water filtration systems and mosquito nets, for example, have improved health outcomes in Africa and other parts of the developing world. Compared with other social innovations that involve place-based social mobilization models, technology platforms designed for bottom-of-the-pyramid markets often scale remarkably well.
2. Geopolitical shifts: Rapid economic development in some regions and countries, including India, China, and Brazil, is bringing new resources and perspectives to social innovation at massive scale. China, for example, has moved the largest number of people out of poverty in the shortest period of time, in history. Tapping into the development lessons, increased resources, and powerful capabilities these countries are generating provides new and different fuel to the social innovation engine as well as useful insight into what could be effective elsewhere.
3. Cross-sector collaboration: We have moved beyond community solutions provided by churches, extended families, and government, to transformative innovations created through public, private, and nonprofit collaborations, including new vaccines and diagnostics, new funding mechanisms such as social impact bonds, and new educational initiatives. Many collaborative approaches take advantage of economies of scale and market mechanisms to use resources more efficiently to produce positive outcomes at greater scale.
4. Knowledge sharing: In addition to creating partnerships, increased knowledge sharing between organizations and across sectors is helping to identify the most promising solutions. For the past several decades, the social sector has been developing the capacity to evaluate and measure the impact of programs. This work provides the building blocks for the next phase of progress, in which social innovators will be able to harvest the knowledge about what works that is currently distributed across the globe in organizations large and small.
While these trends point to a tremendous flourishing of social innovation, the work of the next generation of social innovators will be to identify the ideas that produce results and ensure that limited resources are used to spread the best solutions. Imagine the impact that could be achieved if all the effort invested in addressing social problems was channeled to the widespread expansion of the most powerful programs. Bringing the best interventions to the people who need them most at a scale proportional to the size of the global problems we face is the major challenge facing the social sector, and perhaps the world.
Photo: “Human Head With Social Network Icons” by KROMKRATHOG
In times past there was a barter economy. Goods were exchanged for other goods. Yet the exchange did not have to take place at the same time, it could be up to a year later.
A major economic innovation was the invention of money in form of silver, pearls or any other valued, but scarce goods. The advantage was that the payment took place immediately, but also that the seller was not dependent upon what the buyer had to offer.
Nowadays, money is not scarce anymore since most of the money is not backed by a substantial amount of gold. But there are many problems with the money economy as we known. There are large differences in income between people and countries, which this year was one of the major topics at the World Economic Forum in Davos. It is possible to manipulate the money streams as the economic crisis recently has shown. And last but not least, it has led to a materialistic world and a tendency to express everything in “earning bugs”.
What if the currency would be Time?
What if we leave an economy based on exchange of goods for an economy totally based on an exchange of time?
We do not suggest that occasionally a dentist and a hairdresser could exchange half an hour of their time, where they offer each other skilled labour. There are many initiatives of this kind of exchange currencies, especially in countries plagued by the economic crisis. Tax offices have a lot of problems with those spontaneous initiatives, as can be seen here. Often the system provides you with opportunities where you can place your surplus money on a virtual time bank. This means that you do not have the disadvantage of the system where you can only trade in equal amounts of time. For example, someone mows someone else’s lawn for an hour in exchange for a repair of a computer that took two hours.
It would be very interesting to research the relative “price” of the goods and services that are traded, but it seems that the amount of minutes spent by each party is equally valued. The time spend by a plumber is of equal value of that of the baby sitter.
We mean here that all currency is expressed in time, not as a parallel system in a dominant money economy.
It’s mind bogging to imagine what the world would look like, it is also difficult to visualize . Therefore, it is a good exercise in Thinkibility skills!
An interesting aspect is that the (time) value of every product would be expressed in the time it has cost to produce it. An iPad “cost” a certain amount of minutes. Another interesting aspect is that everybody have a limited amount of minutes available during his or her life time. But what will happen when someone has spent all the minutes in his or her life time?
What would be the consequences for crafts? Would an economy based on time as a currency improve the efficiency of time usage for some tasks, or just the other way around? Would the productivity sky-rocket because machines do not consume time, but to design and produce them cost time? Today it is much cheaper to fly from Paris to London than taking the train. However, taking the train costs much less time.
Are there some sub-cultures where actually the currency is time? Some tribe, alternative community or an art collective where we can study the effects?
How can you spend your minutes when your are not working, f.e. on holidays?
Nowadays, employees give time to a company in exchange of money, related to their knowledge, skills, experience and age. If the currency is time, will companies pay in minutes for the hours spent in the company, regardless of the capacity an employee brings to the task? Or will it be the other way around. But why should we spend hours in company if we do not earn more minutes? And could we instead of spending time working, playing with the kids? If you are going to school, you are loosing time. Could you earn more time by meditating?
Would it be possible to invest in time? To give time away for free?
If time is your most precious currency, might it not important to think about what might happen if the new currency would be time. Or is that a wast of time?
The last decades, has seen several changes in peacemaking efforts and civil society organisations, such as Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue and Internal Alert, are increasingly getting more involved in the peace process. Get few of us are aware of the innovations that are taking place. We are unaware of what peace makers are doing? And what sort of social innovations that may be beneficial for the peacemaking process.
There are many failures when it comes to securing peace and preventing atrocities, to mention just a few the failure of global activism, Save Darfur Coalition, to end the genocide in Darfur, and the civil war in Sri Lanka. The problems in Syria, highlights some of the problems that face nation-states and multilateral groups (including the United Nations) to end violent conflicts. Yet there are promising signs and also research that challenges many of our assumptions about war. The Human Security Research Report 2012, challenges ideas such as war destroys the education in the society.
- Education outcomes actually improve on average during wartime.
- Yet conflict-affected countries generally have substantially lower educational outcomes than nonconflict countries.
- But the lower educational outcomes are not because of war. The educational outcomes were low or lower during period of peace.
A recent example of attempts to ensure that children’s education are not disrupted due to violence can be see in Sudan. Here UNICEF has worked together with the local ministry of education and peacekeepers at the UN mission in South Sudan to make sure that students amid violence can complete their exams can be see in Sudan.
Today, an increasing number of conflicts is terminated by settlements and the majority of these negotiations have manged to prevent violence. Moreover, the death toll is dramatically reduced.
Peacemaking organisations often have expertise and knowledge and these combined with a moral authority has made it possible for them to fill the role where national governments and multilateral organisations have failed.
South Africa’s Journey
How would you describe Nelson Mandela’s contributions to the South African peace process? What specific contributions did he made? What strategies did he use to implement those strategies?
Nelson Mandela may be a prominent peace figure, yet many of us have difficulties describing what he did. His approach is often compared to Gandhi and Martin Luther King but this may not be an entirely accurate comparison.
“One of most interesting things he ever said to me was this idea of nonviolence. Remember, we compare him to Gandhi, we compare him to Martin Luther King. He said: “I was not like them. For them, nonviolence was a principle. For me, it was a tactic. And when the tactic wasn’t working, I reversed it and started” –that’s a very important difference.” Rick Stengel
South Africa’s journey from apartheid towards the creation of state built upon democratic values, included a wide range of peacemaking efforts:
- Official negotiations
- Multi-party initiative – CODESA (Convention for a Democratic South Africa)
- Regional bodies that emerged under the country’s National Peace Secretariat.
- Local peace committees that included South Africans of every racial and ethnic background, and from every sector of society
What is Peace and Peacemaking?
Peace is characterised by the lack of violence and freedom of fear of violence. Peace is often seen as something that is intangible yet a Global Peace Index has been developed to measure the peacefulness in different regions in the world.
Peacemaking is a practical approach to establish relationship that forestall future conflicts. A common used approach is to establish agreements on ethical decision between parties or within a community. New mutual agreements are formed and often facilitators or mediators are used.
As can be seen in the example of the peacemaking process in South Africa several layer in society can be involved in the creation and the formation of relationships that forestall conflicts. Peace innovation can take place in different areas:
- Peace in general
- Peace in families
- Peace in the workplace
- Peace between countries and people
Creative peacebuilding is an approach to create peace within individuals, groups and societies. The overall aim is to create an environment of lasting peace and methods such as music and visual art are used. For example, music therapy can be used a way to create harmony among individuals.
Creating an environment of lasting peace is the primary goal of peacebuilding. Eastern-Western Divan Orchestra is an attempt to create lasting peace within Israel, the Palestinian territories and Arab countries. The overall goal is to promote mutual reflection and understanding by engaging young musicians in music making.
The Peace Dot is an initiative made Stanford Peace Innovation Lab. The idea is to provide a place where organisations working towards peace can share their ideas. The directory includes a wide range of approaches towards peacemaking such as Couchsurfing, where the aim is to encourage people to open their eyes for other cultures to Khan Academy where students all over the world can receive free education.
Couchsurfing is an attempt to promote peace by connecting people to a global community of travelers. You can use Couchsurfing to find a place to stay or share your home and hometown with travelers. The Khan Academy tries to promote peace by ensuring that children and students all over the world has access to education. During period of peace educational outcomes were low or lower in conflict-affected countries. Thus, providing education is a way to promote peace.
Peace innovators explore ideas like:
- How to use technology to target human violence?
- How to reduce negative communication by using technology?
- How do you promote positive communication?
- Can Facebook social games be used to teach non-violent communication?
- Can mobile iPhone Apps teach children anti-bullying interventions?
- Designing solutions for civil engagement.
- Ways to measure peace – How do you measure peace between countries, within a country, and between people?
Thus, today there is an attempt to prevent conflicts by developing innovations that can promote positive communication and help to build relationship between people and communities. There are also attempts to introduce innovation into diplomacy, which is a traditional and hierarchical profession. For example, ideas such as online negotiations and ways to engage small and developing states in global policy processes are explored.
It might seem naive to suggest that human conflict can be solved by better communication and more knowledge of other cultures. Many conflict originate from different interests (water, oil, food), or people who do not adhere to generally accepted standards and laws. However, peace processes in for example South Africa suggests that a wide range of methods may help a peace process. Breaking down barriers and providing food, water and education to everyone is a start.
Photo:”Spheres Balance” by Danilo Rizzuti, Wrangler News, “White Dove” by Victor Habbick