On Innovation, Impact, and Rollaboards®
Sep 12, 2017
September 12, 2017
We typically equate innovation with speed. It seems like transportation has been Uberized overnight, except in Vancouver where I still can’t get a taxi if it rains. But innovation isn’t always quick.
The first suitcases were produced about 120 years ago. For three-quarters of a century, the fundamental design didn’t change—we lugged our suitcases around for decades! The first patent for a rolling suitcase, the one with that cumbersome pull strap, was issued in the early ‘70s. It wasn’t until 1987 that “Rollaboards®” hit the market – the ones with the sturdy handles and the back braces. The “four-wheel spinner” was introduced in 2004 and has now reached near ubiquity.
The rate of innovation in the social sector is also variable. Social and policy innovation don’t always keep pace with business and economics (and vice versa). Today, any of our frameworks, systems, and tools strain under the weight of challenges that span jurisdictions or won’t fit neatly into pre-set categories. Policy issue silos impede solutions to complex problems, particularly for issues (e.g. public health, climate, biodiversity, and sustainable development) that require integrated and dynamic solutions. And in a polarized political and social culture that rewards conflict, we are often pushed further apart.
RESOLVE’s first innovation, forty years ago, was the idea that mediation could generate centripetal pull across divided sectors to create the incentives and cross-sector partnerships that are required to develop enduring solutions to environmental issues and disputes. Over the past four decades, we’ve continued innovating: expanding our approach to include health, development, and social issues; fostering unique and meaningful partnerships; and now initiating our own solutions-focused programs to rally diverse stakeholders together toward shared objectives. As we celebrate RESOLVE’s 40th year, we are testing yet another innovation in social impact partnerships. We are working with the social and business sectors to launch a series of projects that use profit to power and drive progress toward socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable solutions.
We see new signs of progress:
- Localities, states and provinces, along with leading emerging economies, are serving as incubators for new and novel solutions. Innovation is occurring in urban areas with diverse and vibrant populations and economies, as well as in rural communities managing complex economic, health, and cultural cross-currents.
- Civil society leaders are redefining their work in ways that respond to issue complexity and takes account of economic and cultural disruption. Larger-scale policy solutions, whether on health or biodiversity, are built from and legitimized in these communities.
- Businesses and investors are acting as positive stimulants in communities where they operate, based on a long-term analysis of needs and community and business benefits. This investment extends to their supply chains, investment and purchasing decisions, and their ability to influence policy.
- A next wave of developing countries (particularly in Africa) are positioned to emerge as economic, cultural, and political leaders. They are taking advantage of natural resource wealth and vibrant, young populations are testing new forms of resource and community governance.
- Voluntary agreements and governance are filling the vacuum left by gaps in global governance or challenged national governments and can serve as an incubator for policy and pragmatic solutions in a time of constrained government capacity.
- Commercial enterprise is a catalyst for health, social, and environmental solutions. We see a ripe moment for growth in impact investing as a counterpoint to policy inertia, with funding moving to social enterprise and impact partnerships.
- In a time where so much else is uncertain, new foundation and corporate partnerships are likely to emerge, supporting policy and enterprise innovation. The key to success will be an approach that helps incubate and de-risk these partnerships.
These are the building blocks for a more productive social sector, but it’s time for us to accelerate. Next week, during our annual meeting, we’re bringing together collaborative leaders from around the world, and from all sectors, to strengthen our resolve and develop strategies that focus on accelerating social innovation.
One such leader is Sheka Forna, director of our ReGrow West Africa partnership. Sheka is an entrepreneur who founded Splash Mobile Money, Sierra Leone’s first and leading mobile payment provider; Rogbonko Village Retreat, a community-based impact enterprise; and the Chairman of the Global Entrepreneurship Network Sierra Leone.
If you miss Sheka’s keynote at our reception on Wednesday, September 20th, you can find out more about ReGrow West Africa here.