Opinion space about water and its challenges

31 January 2017

Connecting the differences


A new sensitivity and a new concept of innovation always entail an expansion of the ecosystem of natural partners. The adoption of social innovation implies including, for example, within the usual network of technological partners, start-ups, universities, etc., other new agents which, in view of their involvement with society, give us access to new data and to new opportunities to innovate as a company. This entails working from differences.

In social innovation, heterogeneity is not an obstacle to overcome, but rather an opportunity to be enriched by the mutual contact. The underlying asset of the difference is emphasized by the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, of the Oxford Said Business School, in its Connected Difference Theory (CDTh).

The Connected Difference Theory emphasizes 3 essential dimensions present in any social innovation with an impact.

1.  Social innovation implies new (hybrid) relational combinations. As Howard Becker and Michael Porter suggest, innovation is a social act. There is no innovation without interaction with others. Innovators worthy of the name must therefore be connected to others who complement them from difference.

2. Recognizing the differences between the agents involved in social innovation makes it necessary to make a break with the usual margins and demarcations – in/out, public/private –. Beyond epistemological disciplines and sectorial rigidity, organizations mix in order to find, together with others, unexplored opportunities.

3. As a result of (1) and (2), social relations, both between organizations and between agents, are reinvented, generating a new expanding dynamics. Data collection, the conceptualization of the idea, the development of the innovation and its dissemination.

In view of all this, on working with new contacts, on new subjects and by means of new ways of relating, innovations are triggered in a chain.

The main initial reluctance to innovate socially – What is the return? Is this my core business? What value does it add for the customer? – is overcome on making the first social innovation. As soon as the value generated for society and for the organization is appraised, the power of the hybrid value chain, there is no doubt about the world of possibilities that is opened up.


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