What is Social Innovation? Good question

In previous posts, such as one at the link below, I have noted that I do not know what a Jane’s Walk is:

What is a Jane’s Walk? It’s an open-ended concept

Similarly, I do not know what Social Innovation is:

A Jane’s Walk is a walking conversation, or walking lecture, or starts as lecture, ends as conversation

The Wall Street Takeover of Nonprofit Boards

An article in the Summer 2015 Issue of Stanford Social Innovation review is entitled: “The Wall Street Takeover of Nonprofit Boards.”

A key paragraph notes:

“Although many of these business approaches may strengthen nonprofit capacity, we should also be mindful of the ways in which these same tools can morph into pathologies, ignore the costs or trade-offs associated with extending business thinking to the charitable sector, or distort organizational priorities. Numerous critics have written thoughtfully about the ways in which market-based thinking and approaches applied to the nonprofit sector provide false promise, with the potential to dilute charitable values, undermine long-term mission focus, incentivize small, incremental goals, and threaten shared governance and other forms of participatory problem-solving.”

[End of excerpt]

Welcome to the age of digital imperialism

A June 7, 2015 New York Times Magazine article is entitled “Welcome to the age of digital imperialism.”

The concluding paragraph reads:

“In old-fashioned 19th-century imperialism, the Christian evangelists made a pretense of traveling separately from the conquering colonial forces. But in digital imperialism, everything travels as one, in the form of the splendid technology itself: salvation and empire, missionary and magistrate, Bible and gun. For all that the world-changing talk of Silicon Valley gets parodied, it is not just empty rhetoric. Over the past decade, it has helped draw so many of the nation’s most driven college graduates to Silicon Valley, the one place in 21st-century America that promises to satisfy both their overweening ambition and their restless craving for social uplift. These unquiet Americans have gone on to design tools that spread values as they create value — a virtuous circle for all who share their virtues.”

[End of excerpt]


For the above-noted magazine articles, I have followed whatever the capitalization usage is, for each magazine.

I don’t know what Jane’s Walk is, although I have organized Jane’s Walks for the past four years. It doesn’t matter to me what it is. Leading and organizing the walks has taught me valuable skills, and has set up some valuable networking. That’s what matters to me.

Similarly, I don’t know what Social Innovation is. I do enjoy reading about it. I enjoy the opportunity to immerse myself in the study of rhetoric; Social Innovation is strong on robust rhetoric. It has been noted that neoliberalism – a term which may or may not be capable of being turned into a useful analytic tool – seeks to enforce market-oriented perceptions of reality, and to direct how a citizen perceives herself or himself as a social being.

In terms of the skills that are required in my day to day work, an understanding of rhetoric – how it works, how it can be analyzed – is of interest to me. A person can learn much about rhetoric through study of its occurrence. Rhetoric, which has a presence in all aspects of human existence, is readily amenable to analysis.

Among the rhetorical flourishes that appeal to me, as the subject of analysis, is the Machine in the Garden metaphor:

Steven High (2003) highlights the Machine in the Garden aesthetic of postwar factory design

The limits of evidence

I am a keen fan of evidence and evidence-based practice. That being the case, I was interested to read a New York Times article entitled: “A Crisis at the Edge of Physics.”

The opening paragraphs read:

“Do physicists need empirical evidence to confirm their theories?

“You may think that the answer is an obvious yes, experimental confirmation being the very heart of science. But a growing controversy at the frontiers of physics and cosmology suggests that the situation is not so simple.”

[End of excerpt]

The article’s concluding paragraphs read:

“Recall the epicycles, the imaginary circles that Ptolemy used and formalized around A.D. 150 to describe the motions of planets. Although Ptolemy had no evidence for their existence, epicycles successfully explained what the ancients could see in the night sky, so they were accepted as real. But they were eventually shown to be a fiction, more than 1,500 years later. Are superstrings and the multiverse, painstakingly theorized by hundreds of brilliant scientists, anything more than modern-day epicycles?

“Just a few days ago, scientists restarted investigations with the Large Hadron Collider, after a two-year hiatus. Upgrades have made it even more powerful, and physicists are eager to explore the properties of the Higgs particle in greater detail. If the upgraded collider does discover supersymmetric particles, it will be an astonishing triumph of modern physics. But if nothing is found, our next steps may prove to be difficult and controversial, challenging not just how we do science but what it means to do science at all.”


The article is of interest. With regard to the frames of reference of everyday life, I remain committed to the value of evidence and evidence-based practice.


A Dec. 29, 2014 [that is, some years back] article at opendemocracy.net is entitled: Irresistibly biased? The blind spots of social innovation.”

The subhead reads: “Social innovation has an irresistible global appeal, but is it biased towards protecting the status quo?”

A May 26, 2016 London School of Economics article is entitled: “From the Third Way to the Big Society: the rise and fall of social capital.”


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