Social innovation is more than a buzzword. It is a way to win against some of the most challenging problems plaguing the world. These include poverty, unemployment, hunger, lack of access to education, water and sanitation, to name a few.
What makes it interesting is that under social innovation, the resolve to create change does not stem from a sole person, organization or the government. Collaboration is key to any social innovation. Actors like individuals, social enterprises, civil society organizations, governments, private entities and businesses need to collaborate and work together to solve challenges like those mentioned earlier.
What is Social Innovation?
At its simplest, a social innovation meets unmet social goals. It is a strategy to solve a social or environmental problem. Consider the example of microinsurance. Or edible cutlery.
Why were such innovations thought of, in the first place? Let us consider microinsurance.
People from underprivileged sections and low-income, developing countries, can barely afford to pay the hefty insurance premiums for something as basic and important as healthcare. Microinsurance breaks the premiums into smaller amounts for specific needs. This ensures that people from vulnerable backgrounds can at least afford to have access to medical insurance.
Examples of Social Innovation
In 2003, Indian cardiologist Devi Shetty devised a micro health insurance scheme to treat poor farmers at monthly premiums as low as INR 10 (USD 0.14). He launched this scheme because he believed that access to healthcare should be a right for all people.
Such models are self-sustaining. The micro health insurance scheme gives healthcare access to poor farmers without having to depend on donations or tax money from other Indians. This scheme makes them self-reliant – they are paying a small amount from their pocket every month towards the premium.
As a social innovator, Dr. Shetty also spearheaded what is called an assembly line of surgeries. This is the very essence of the establishment of his chain of Narayana Hrudayalaya hospitals. These large hospitals can accommodate several patients. This also enables doctors to carry out over 60 heart surgeries a day.
Did you know that this innovation earned him the title of Henry Ford of Heart Surgeries!
In India, more than 2 million people need surgeries every year but less than 10% of them can afford it. The mass production of surgeries enables more people to have access to surgeries and further reduces the cost. Dr. Shetty terms this model the Walmartization of surgeries!
Watch this short video to know how the micro health insurance scheme fits in and works in a developing country like India:
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Social Innovation in Education
Access to quality education is the root of solving many challenging problems today. Goal 4: Quality Education of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 2030) is linked to driving out poverty and unemployment, giving access to food, contributing to economic growth, building industries and improving our quality of life.
How do you picture education? A group of students listening to a teacher in a classroom, submitting finished assignments, and taking exams periodically? There is much more to education. Many students don’t make it to the classrooms, or drop out of schools because of hefty fees, or in some cases lack the interest to pursue studies.
Giving all children across the world access to quality education needs collaboration. Governments, educational institutions, teachers, families, policymakers and private players must work together. This will support early learning, bring funding of education, foster creativity and innovation in the curriculum and make learning more inclusive.
Why Social Innovation in Education?
Social innovation in a vast field like education is essential for many reasons, like:
- Globally, the cost of education is still on a rise. However, higher cost doesn’t always translate to better learning among students or better productivity.
- Accessibility to education has improved because of Internet penetration in many places. However, many developing countries still don’t have uninterrupted access to electricity and the Internet. Thus, many students can’t access digital classes and online learning.
- The quality of curriculum – what is taught, the way it’s taught and consumed also needs a revamp. All these factors make social innovation in education important.
Actors like governments, institutions, industry representatives, civil society representatives and parent bodies must be involved to improve the curriculum of schools and colleges. Educational curricula should be designed to improve learning, enhancing curiosity, and keeping the imagination of students alive. For instance, teaching them about digital skills is not enough. Giving them real-world problems to solve using those digital skills is a starter.
Innovative methods of teaching and the use of technology can improve the quality of teaching. The focus has always been on textbook-based learning with no or minimal focus on improving creativity and enhancing critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
Currently, there is also a disconnect between what is taught in schools and colleges and the real-life work scenarios. The goal of learning should be to solve real-life problems so that our education system is in sync with our industries and the problem these industries aim at solving in the real world. The Swiss Vocational Educational Training (VET) prepares school students for jobs. Here is how:
Can Social Innovation in Education Bring Reforms?
Innovation doesn’t necessarily involve the use of tech. Innovation in education means finding better ways to do something and solving problems. However, the use of tech has opened newer ways to improve the learning and productivity of learners. This can, in turn, spur creative thinking, innovation, and problem solving among students.
Using social innovation to improve the quality of education can bring about qualitative changes across sectors, thus, positively impacting the global economy and the quality of lives.
This is a short video that tells how a schoolteacher in a nondescript Indian village was able to revolutionize education in India. This educational innovator, Ranjitsinh Disale, also won the Global Teacher Prize in 2020:
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If a single person can transform education and make such a great impact, imagine how much change can we bring, together. Collaboration among the actors can improve the quality of education and make it accessible to the poorest of children.
How do you think social innovation in education can benefit learners and, in turn, output at workplaces and industries? Let us know in the comments.