A breakfast session with Madeleine Gabriel: Scale Up Social Innovations

asli The Adianta School extends its heartiest welcome to Madeleine Gabriel – Principal Researcher at NESTA (UK’s nodal agency for innovation) and Kirsten Bound, who are here to share their insights on “How Social Innovations could Scale?”

Any social entrepreneur would love to be part of a massive societal change and make his/her innovation indispensable, however, they also understand that innovation for a social impact is not ‘always’ scale-able and there are considerations to be taken into account.

Agreed that an innovation could have ample scaling potential and there could be deliberate strategies which might influence its development, but is there a balance we could strike with respect to a desire for an impressive return on your innovation (rather investment!).

Is scaling, after all, a process of growing impact by responding in accordance to the needs and prompts of people? Let us take a close look at how we could possibly zero upon the core strengths of future innovations.

10:00 AM Madeleine is pleased to be here as she acquaints us with her colleagues from NESTA who are curious and hopeful of innovations happening around the world and sharing their experiences from innovators in UK. A brief talk on followed on areas of interests were brought forth on : Funding Programmes/ Research and Policy/ Skills for innovation (inclusive innovation and social innovation/incubators based on scaling)/ Impact and investments Based of innovation thinking, a talk on how a social entrepreneur could eventually ‘Make it Big’ addressed challenges and questions on possibilities to approach and solving challenges. Initially, 4 major modules of scaling were proposed and 3 major ‘success factors’ (success stories) were also brought to light to better understand what can make scaling work? To understand how to effectively tackle the dilemma on – to scale or not to scale and what could be the best organisational model for scaling ?

1st Is it through Influence and Advise which would considerably impact on how much is adapted and changed as the innovation scales gradually? 2nd Is it through Forming  Strategic Partnerships with bigger organizations – as is the case with several entrepreneurs in UK who own small start ups and have grown multi-fold by partnering with bigger organizations 3rd Another way to effectively leverage a mode of scaling would be through building a delivery network through social franchising models for e.g.  you have a delivery model like FoodCycle franchise addressing food wastage, poverty and still ensuring strict standards for quality check. The last model (4th model) would be to grow an organisation to deliver the needs of society and allow its development over time ( This strategy is loose on control, but is meant to be set off and bloom) Sighting an example Madeleine spoke of the Code Club a nationwide network of free volunteer-led after-school coding clubs for children aged 9-11. It teaches them not be a passive computer games but rather enable them to make games through thorough understand of coding skills and expertise.

10:15 A.M. Its worth pointing out, how we could achieve  and walk on the charted path through but on priority, there should be an assessment of  1st – Effective supply and demand which could also provide zones of possibilities for stakeholders and make them aware of people who would pay for it. It is much more just creating impact as effective demand correspondingly creates a ‘need based model’ which could be ‘scale-able’considerably. 2nd – Swimming with the tide and capturing a political priority or a social trend etc. is being much receptive and when it is coupled with strong networks it could shape a momentum for growth. 3rd – Creating a social movement by engaging a community ’emotionally’ – through means of social media (like Code Club did with its quirky twitter feeds, meetups etc that got people together for a cause) However, there are tensions on how much control you want and how fast you want it to scale ? 

A great idea emerges, it gets prototype, the business begins and it grows but how massive do you want it to be ? Madeleine shared her observation on how the Sunday Assembly ‘a godless congregation that meets to hear great talks, sing songs and generally celebrate the wonder of life’ took a different approach and later grew into supporting homeless people in ways they could.

As the session was nearing an end, questions were invited from participants to facilitate a discussion on new ideas, Rita (from NASSCOM) was interested to know on how NESTA deals with supporting initiatives of innovators who are promoting practices the government has failed to take up whilst framing its foundation policy. Madeleine replied how NESTA is looking into healthcare ,but at the same time, looking at support groups by working with other partners that have good networks with policy making bodies.

This brought us on lines of how partnerships are very important and the challenges for social entrepreneurs who want to engage the government in the process. Madeleine spoke of NESTA and its association with Timewise Foundation which aims at good quality part-time jobs which match the level of skills and experience. This was also effective as they have a good link with the government and lobbying through these channels could also lead to a smooth transition in policy / legislation  changes.

10:30 A.M. A student from ASLI asks ‘do we scale at all and lose value?’ Madeline replies – Social entrepreneurs want recognition by scaling up … but scaling is not for everyone. The next question is about NESTA and its association with designers to which a representative from NESTA replied  ‘User Design to address social issues is also one of our interests and this is where the DESIS network which focuses on practical tools for Social Innovation and International Development has been developed.’

10:45 A.M. – 10:47 A.M. Kirsten Bound shares her experience on Tony Blair’s Africa Governance Initiative in Rwanda. She also speaks of the DIY toolkit.org  and self help tools. Bringing the insightful session to a close she invites everyone at Adianta to pool in their experience and collaborate in shaping the ‘innovation hot-spot map’ which is under presently developing.

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