The sun streamed in on our Social Innovation workshop last Thursday 13th March.
The workshop brought together people involved in land based social enterprise, to discuss some of the themes emerging from our ‘Learning Lessons from Social Innovation’ research project. The project, which you can read more about here, seeks to understand how social innovations scale and how they grow or retain their social impact.
In the brief time we had to delve into this complex topic, we covered a good deal of ground. The day began with a presentation from the Shared Assets team looking at the need for research into innovation in relation to community management of land, and sharing some definitions of innovation, social innovation and scaling. We then outlined the key themes of the case studies developed as part of the research: community-led HIV services, development trusts, community recycling, community food enterprises and community renewable energy.
Participants were invited to discuss what themes and scenarios felt relevant to them as practitioners and supporters of land based community organisations. Community food growers shared the issues experienced by development trusts regarding ‘assets’ becoming ‘liabilities’. Members of land co-operatives recognised the confusion between campaigning and service delivery that community-led HIV services had experienced years before.
A chatty tea and donut break was followed by an exploration of the key concepts emerging from the research as a whole. This identified some of the tensions around scaling such as ‘Scale Vs. Innovation: can an organisation grow and continue to innovate?’ and ‘Impact vs. Value: when the impact (what you do) grows, do you lose the value (how you do it)?’. These ideas too, it seemed, resonated with participants, with some suggesting that they would use the concepts as a framework for their organisational strategy days.
This session ignited more impassioned discussion, with practitioners, funders and researchers swapping experiences, ideas, aspirations and difficulties in the land-based sector. Participants outlined when such concepts would be useful for directing their projects and we began to explore the types of tools that could be used to translate these abstract tensions into practical use.
We ended the day with a clearer sense of how our research was meaningful to those working in the land-based social enterprise sector. Our task now is to take the data from the research and the insight from the workshop and develop a range of tools and outputs that will be useful to practitioners in community led, land based organisations, and those that support them.
A huge thank you to all who came and to the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation for funding the research and hosting the workshop. If you’d like to see more updates from the day, do check out our Storify of the event.