Social Innovation: A Growth Market for Collaborative Innovation

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In my book “Collaboration and Co-Creation: New Templates for Marketing and Innovation,” the last chapter takes the reader beyond the business world. It discusses Norway’s Clinic of Innovation and Scotland’s NESTA, among other informative case studies. Though I am opposed to making predictions, purely on philosophical grounds, I do believe that social innovations will continue to provide us with some of the more compelling and enlightening collaborative innovation stories in the years to come.


If you would like more evidence, read the April 30th – May 6th issue of the Economist – the one with the Statue of Liberty on the cover asking a tired, but provocative, question – “What’s wrong with America’s economy?”  The last story in the box on the top right features the story – “Behold, the $300 home.” It is a dialogue that was started by two people I know well; Vijay Govindarajan, who was my Professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, and Christian Michael Sarkar, a young marketing consultant who has collaborated with me on several projects.  I contributed to the discussion as well with my blog which highlighted co-creation challenges in implementing the $300 house program.

The article in the Economist, billed as “Applying the world’s business brains to housing the poor” discusses a number of social problems like housing, credit, and rural electrification. It also lists several noteworthy individuals (Muhammad Yunus, Girish Bhardwaj) and organizations (Philips, Habitat for Humanity) that are contributing mightily with ideas and solutions.  However, the sentence that caught my eye says – solving these problems will in turn demand a high degree of co-operation (please read as collaboration) between people who do not always get on; companies and NGO’s, designers and emerging world governments.

Maybe they didn’t in the past.  But we live in a different world today – one in which value chains are giving way to value constellations and where blatant pursuit of competition is being replaced by mindsets that favor collaboration and co-opetition.  In this new environment, ideas alone can’t be the dominant currency. For no idea can fulfill it’s intrinsic potential if not adopted and implemented.  

Nowhere is this truer than in the field of energy consumption; reducing the carbon footprint of individuals, communities, and cities.  And the forward-thinking city of Seattle is leading the way, at least in the USA.  The city has started a Community Power Works (CPW) programs. CPW is a neighborhood program in central and southeast Seattle that will make energy efficiency improvements to buildings in six sectors: single-family, multi-family, small commercial, large commercial, hospital and municipal sectors.


To read and learn more about this interesting initiative, please visit my blog posted today at