Defining Social Innovation

Stanford GSB was the first North American business school to establish a center dedicated to engaging students in the pursuit of social and environmental change and made many contributions to the understanding of the evolving field of social innovation.

What Is Social Innovation?

“Social innovation is the process of developing and deploying effective solutions to challenging and often systemic social and environmental issues in support of social progress. Social innovation is not the prerogative or privilege of any organizational form or legal structure. Solutions often require the active collaboration of constituents across government, business, and the nonprofit world.”

— Sarah A. Soule, Neil Malhotra, Bernadette Clavier

Recent Examples of Social Innovation

Charter Schools

Publicly funded primary or secondary schools that operate free from some of the regulations that typically apply to public schools. Administrators, teachers, and parents thus have the opportunity to develop innovative teaching

Emissions Trading

A pollution control program that uses economic incentives to reduce emissions. A cap is set on the total amount of a certain pollutant that can be emitted, and permits to pollute are issued to all participating businesses. Those with higher emissions can buy credits from businesses that have reduced their emissions. Over time, the cap is reduced.

Fair Trade

An organized movement that establishes high trade standards for coffee, chocolate, sugar, and other products. By certifying traders that pay producers a living wage and meet other social and environmental standards, the fair trade movement improves farmers’ lives and promotes environmental sustainability.