I want to open this article by the words of president Manuel Barroso in Brussels in January 2009 “social innovation is not a panacea but if encouraged and valued –it can bring immediate solution to the pressing issues citizen are confronted with” he continued to say “I see social innovation as part of part of a new culture of empowerment that we can try to promote”. With these high hopes expressed by many including the European Union through BEPA, I also believe that social innovation though not yet extensively defined and explored is the most promising solution to the problems we are facing in the world.
However before we start celebrating we have a lot to be done. We have a couple of challenges I want to address myself to in this article. These challenges have existed throughout the human development. They are deeply entrenched within the social system. And these challenges if not addressed will be the greatest impediment to the realization of social innovation social creativity and social entrepreneurship.
First among the challenges is Taboos. A taboo is defined as a social or religious customs prohibiting or forbidding a discussion of a particular practice or forbidding association with a particular person, place or thing. In most cases this are held truths within a certain society, which if not adhered to will bring curses to the defiant individuals or communities. and this consequently inhibit the capacity of an individual to stretch their imagination to think of better solution to the pressing problems that we face.
A good example is the practices of the Luhya community in Kenya that have been held for so many decades. A woman cannot build a house. This prevented women from being part of a solution to housing problem. However a story run in the daily people in Kenya on 18th February 2015 Page 15 should instill a sense of hope for the future generation. A brave woman by the name Ondiso Petia defied the norms and build a house after his husband went to search for employment in a far area. The most interesting part is the curses that people thought will follow his family including giving birth to blind children, siring mentally handicapped babies or even being barren never came to pass. She has emerged a winner and a role model for our generation and those to come
Secondly, the poor mentality syndrome is one that if we want social innovation to function we have to dispel. So many people think that they have nothing to do about their situation. They are doomed to life in poverty. But I will want the proponents of social innovation social justice and social creativity to find ways of getting the words of Thomas Jefferson – that all men are created equal that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights : that among them life , liberty and pursuit of Happiness -to the world . These words however I dint get to read them when I was young someone had read and was able to instill them in me through their actions. They took me to school maybe they better understood what Nelson Mandela said “education is the only weapon that we can use to fight poverty” I will add-education is the only weapon we can use to accelerate the diffusion of social innovation, social entrepreneurship and social creativity.
Education is the magical bullet that will enable us to cross to the other side of human prosperity. It is said that there are height able men and women will never ascend to simply because they chose to remain in places outside their divine terrain all in the name of certainty. Social innovation that we are not certain where it is going we need to be encouraged and be pushed to venture into this unknown field. But we also need to have those who can believe in those who want to try and give them moral financial and political support that may be required. For I know for sure that social innovation, social entrepreneurship is geared toward helping people to live a better live. As the adage goes the fulfillment of knowing you are doing some significant work and uplifting lives is a delicacy served to the courageous few ready for the rocky voyage to living their authentic lives. And this is where I wish all my fellow African youths should be.
Corruption and impunity is another challenge to social innovation. This is mostly affecting the developing world. It was my first time to learn that corruption might be associated with level of wealth. Following the study carried out by Michal Paulus and Ladislav Kristoufek at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic found the correlation between perception of corruption in different countries and their economic development. It was dumbfounding to find that Africa is one of the Continent where all developing countries are and probably high level of corruption. It means then as social entrepreneurs we have our work cut out for us. To eradicate corruption.
For us to achieve any substantive solution to corruption then we will have to invoke what makes us different – the culture of collective learning in extreme diverse social system. We have to create a new value system that appreciates the contribution of different social actors, the value system that believes in social justice, values that uphold human rights, a value system that recognizes the concept of sharing economy where collaboration and partnership is a key driving force of society. We have to avail information to the people at the bottom of the pyramid to resist coercion. We have to teach and train people on avenues that are there to get redress. Finally we have to strengthen the institutions that handle anti-corruption.
Finally if social innovation is to play a beneficial role in the development of this present society dominated by knowledge and service huge efforts will be required to generate and implement wide variety of social innovation focusing on systemic changes. We need to vigorously deal with our customs and beliefs that have scuttled our effort to development. We should yearn to create openness that will cultivate trust, for without trust we lose the opportunity for strategic collaboration and partnership which are of essence in this era of social economy
Together we can eradicate poverty ignorance and diseases.