The Global Innovation Academy: An Initiative of the Young Foundation


Can you teach people how to innovate? Is it possible to develop a training process and curriculum that could be used universally? And if you can, what would a global innovation academy look like? It would have to offer training modules and sessions on innovation and how to accomplish it and manage it, but also go well beyond that and offer a platform where people can share their experiences and insights. It would need to bring the wisdom of leading social innovation practitioners from around the world together with the knowledge, methods and evidence of innovations that have been developed, are being tested, and that have found to be successful in different parts of the world. And this process, like innovation itself, would need to be a continuous one, where information is shared throughout the project.

The Young Foundation has developed just such a new, pioneering initiative called the Global Innovation Academy, in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation, NESTA and other organizations from the social innovation field around the world. This came about in response to many requests and calls from public servants, NGOs, foundations and businesses around the world who wanted better access to practical, useful skills in managing innovation.

Its mission is to provide unique learning experiences to public servants, NGOs, foundations and businesses, in order to support the spread of effective social innovation methods that can tackle the most pressing global issues we face. The underlying belief and philosophy behind this ambitious project is that the biggest challenges faced by society at large are complex and cut across several different sectors; they have no readily available or simple solution and can only be solved through innovation. Furthermore, most ideas have been tried out somewhere, by some individual or organization, and the most effective approach would be to learn from the successes or failures of such experiments from around the world. The Global Innovation Academy hopes to provide just such a platform.

The Academy’s content will cover both theoretical and practical knowledge, replete with a growing body of knowledge based on case studies and field research. It will address the various stages of innovation, from the prompts that initiate it to the challenges that need to be overcome to achieve systemic change, including information on the various resources – organizational structure, process design, competencies of personnel, financial requirements, and more – needed for innovation. This knowledge will be both general as well as sector-specific, and training will provided along two different models: as intensive 1-day or 3-day workshops, or as less intensive year-long ongoing training.

The program was initiated in April this year, in an inaugural program at the Social Innovation Park in Bilbao, Spain. While it is still only in its primary stages, the goal is for the mature, fully realized academy to be active across the globe, connecting and working with thousands of social innovators from around the globe, building a burgeoning alumni network, and sharing the most cutting edge developments in sustainable social innovation. The idea, ultimately, is that “the Global Academy will be at the heart of the movement to make social innovation as well-supported, funded, and grounded in evidence as scientific, medical and commercial innovation.”

View a detailed overview of the Global Innovation Academy here (pdf)

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