Monthly Spotlight: Interview with Wendy Cukier, Vice President, Research and Innovation, Ryerson University (CA)

Why is research in Social Innovation important for you?

Social Innovation (SI) has enormous potential for affecting social change and improving social good.  It is a new way of looking at things aimed at developing new models, new working relationships between diverse partners, to find solutions to real problems.  We need to bridge all sectors and bring together academics, governments, foundations, employers and community organizations to share the concept of SI to address complex, intransigent social problems in times of constrained resources.

What is the biggest challenge for Social Innovation Research?

The concept of SI needs a stronger theoretical grounding from a practical and scientific perspective. Bringing together all the sectors that are currently working for change, but that are working in parallel rather than collaborative ways.  We need to bring together and bridge these sectors.

What result can we expect from SI-DRIVE?

The mapping exercises and case studies will result in much needed data: we need these more practical and empirical information and examples.  This will result in much greater understanding across countries as well and allow us to understand the fragmented and distinct social projects and initiatives that are funded and offered by government, foundations, industry, agencies, and academic institutions, and the way in which they are understood.
Apart from the theoretical ramifications, these competing understandings have practical implications. While it is nearly impossible to tell which new ideas will become transformative innovations, a plethora of initiatives without regard to larger systems results in enormous duplication and inefficiencies. Bridging competing understandings and the relationship between large systems dynamics and specific actors, networks, and initiatives is critical to theory and practice.
We need to know where the initiatives fit into the larger system. Is there duplication and overlap? How does context informs the processes?

Which book or article about Social Innovation should everybody read?

“Innovation And Entrepreneurship” by Peter F. Drucker. Harper Collins 2006.

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