Looking for new methods of innovation and active political leaders

Geoff Mulgan is Chief Executive of Nesta, a UK based organisation that acts as investor, researcher, funder and convener in all kinds of innovation – from commercial to social, arts to technology. Mulgan is one of the opening keynote speakers at Social Innovation Summit.

geoff_mulgan_smallWhat is the business potential of social innovation?
– Many of the most important sectors likely to see growth of jobs and wealth in the next two decades are social in nature: for example healthcare (already the largest sector in most of the world), education, the sharing economy and childcare. These are nearly always mixed economies, including public sector, private business and civil society, and they need distinctive methods of innovation that combine new technologies with new models of organisation.

What is the potential for social innovation in the Nordic countries?
– The most important and exciting areas of innovation today surround health: moving from systems focused on cure in hospitals towards prevention, self-management and peer support in every place, from homes to workplaces. These will be informed by much greater flows of data and knowledge, and the new insights from genomics. The Nordic health systems continue to lead the world and the Nordic countries also have the other key capacities: strong digital sectors, confident local government and plenty of patients organisations, all needed to achieve this change to a more people and knowledge powered health system.

What does it take to make ”things happen” within politics, when it comes to social innovation?
– I’m interested in the role political leaders can play in catalysing social innovation. In our own research we’ve looked at dozens of labs and teams around the world that have used political authority to mobilise new ideas. They have to be comfortable releasing energies that they won’t always control. But they will benefit from a much lively way of running governance.

Could you mention some of the biggest challenges to our society today!
– Welcoming and integrating refugees is clearly a top priority for Europe right now, and I remember my first ever visit to Malmö, nearly 20 years ago. The city was then entirely focused on the practical questions of how to run very diverse urban communities. Some places around the world have done this well, but many are struggling. A crucial issue is to help longstanding communities retain their sense of belonging, while also helping newcomers feel that they have a valid place in the local economy, politics and places.

Do you have any good examples of social entrepreneurs and/or social innovations worth ”keeping an extra eye on” right now?
– We back a couple of hundred organisations at anyone time, all of whom are worth following, in fields ranging from food to jobs. One area of particular interest is data; there’s been lots of hype around big data, but most of the applications have mainly served big business or big government. We’re just beginning to see really useful ways of organising and matching data that actually meets citizen needs. I hope that some of these will grow really big.

Photo: Nesta

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