By Marco Pozzi , Incubation Manager of FabriQ

Innovation has always been a driver for the success of the companies in Europe and across the world. But nowadays an interesting union of words is becoming increasingly more trending: Social Innovation.

But… what is Social Innovation? There are many ways to define it, but we do believe that the definition of new ideas that work in meeting social goals is the right one for us.
In this way, we define products and services that are developed by subjects whose purposes are social integrated with the economic sustainability: it’s a new way of involving different actors in order to generate ideas by addressing needs and designing ad hoc solutions for economic changes.
The driver of social innovation is the awareness of a gap between what still there is and what there should be, between real daily life needs and what is offered by public/government, privates and NGOs, as well as hybrid actors, that focus on replicable models and programs. The purpose of this article is not to make a theoretical focus on innovation, but just a way to highlight that today many new topics are gaining relevance, such as the rise of life expectancy (both in terms of age and quality of life), difficult transitions to adulthood and search of Happiness. All these topics are for us an opportunity to make an impact.

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Photo cc: Lilivanili_Ideas

As reported, social innovation is for us a key to make this world a better place and, to a ground level, help society overcoming “undisclosed” problems. We candidate ourselves, FabriQ, the incubator of social innovation of Milan’s Municipality, as new operating actors that are trying to renew the concept of collaboration among players. As any other organisation in order to be successful, we need to be focused on emerging activities, that are very relevant in order to have possibilities to become the mainstream activities of the future, but even on already explored ones. That’s why we teach to our “incubated innovators” the resilience: we have first-hand experience on day by day management of problems, by developing efficiency and understanding the new upcoming trends in social innovation.

Innovation triggers the awareness of a need that is not being met yet and some idea of how it could be met. Sometimes requirements are clearly defined but sometimes needs are less obvious, or not recognised at all and the best innovators find all these desires by talking and listening to people to understand everyday dissatisfactions and obstacles. Needs can be tied to new possibilities, like technologies and digital solutions and become widespread. Society constantly throws up possible social innovations: some stay at a conversation level, like the ones in a bar, discussed with friends, others slow down as enthusiasm fades or it becomes obvious that the idea is not so good or has no market response. But the path to success is to guarantee a range of choices to rely on. Formal creativity methods can generate possibilities. That’s what we are doing through these programs for future entrepreneurs: we accelerate the innovation, sketching up ideas, developing them, helping with market analysis or desk support. But we know that progress is often achieved more quickly by turning the idea into prototype and piloting and motivating the aspiring entrepreneur, so we offer a protected environment that supports ideas and allows them to become real, advices and ensures the freedom to evolve.

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Then next step is growth. But not every business has the cards to scale: we help people in understanding that, and in case of any opportunity, we support them in doing it. With our support, we explain how social innovation has not to be left to chance and lucky. It would be hypocritical saying that social innovation it’s something easy, self-spreading and always successful. It’s not. Failures are hidden around every corner and what we do is trying to give consciousness of it and trying to reduce different risks.

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The ecosystem has got a long way to go on this topic: it needs structures suited to innovation as well as finance focused on innovation. Policy should encourage innovation by defining helpful frameworks for that. Comparing with national case studies, benchmarking and inspiring with international best practices and research are key factors for fostering social innovation.
We have just begun the journey and we want to bet on this, do you?

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