HBS Study Reveals Insights into the Social Innovation Field


A recent study, conducted by Harvard Business School professor Julie Battilana and doctorate student Matthew Lee, reveals some interesting insights about where the Social Innovation field is right now, and where it might be heading. The study uses six years’ worth of applicants for an Echoing Green (an organization that offers fellowships to promote social innovation) fellowship as the sample base for this undertaking, in an effort to systematically understand the main trends in this newly emerging field.

Dowser.org conducted an interview with Professor Julie Battilana where she shared some of the most significant learnings from the study.

1. Inherent Diversity: While some social innovations have received wide acclaim and media presence, there are many successful and highly creative, useful innovations that are much less known. The best known usually tend to be in the fields of healthcare and education, but in fact, there is huge diversity in the proposals for fellowships.

2. Think Local: One of the most enlightening of these was the fact that most social innovators do not set out to solve huge global problems; rather, the impetus for action tends most often to come out of a local issue of personal importance.

3. Hybrid Organizations: Battilana spoke about how more and more social-innovation organizations are moving away from being funded by donations, and are instead choosing to fund their ventures through commercially generated revenue in addition to donations – hence the term “hybrid organization”.

The entire project was envisioned as a means to collect, analyze and systematically record data on social entrepreneurship in order to create a knowledge bank and network that will actually help entrepreneurs and will assist in the growth of the social innovation movement as a whole. Existing qualitative data on social entrepreneurship tends to focus solely on heroic, successful entrepreneurs, which provides a skewed view of what the field actually looks like. This study hope to provide a more wide-ranging and holistic account of social entrepreneurship, with information on the entire process of developing an idea, identifying funding support, developing a business model, ensuring the growth of the enterprise, and dealing with the problems that may arise mid-way.

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