A group of prominent Quebec activists, government representatives, researchers, academics and community practitioners has just published a Declaration on Social Innovation which is well worth a look. Quebec is a global leader in social transformation. Its leadership in creating a social economy (Chantier de l'économie social), has set a standard the rest of Canada has not yet equalled.
Many social innovation initiatives concentrate on the 'how' of social innovation. In other words they focus on the means (technique and methodology), and ignore the 'why'. Their assumptions are silent. However, unless technique and methodology are anchored with expressed values and there is clarity on what the improvements will be to beneficiaries, social innovation risks becoming another rhetorical tool to reinforce the status quo. Social innovation means are not neutral. They will not achieve the ends of economic and social justice without intentionality.
The creators of the Quebec Declaration don't make that mistake. They have clearly identified why a culture of social innovation is needed in Quebec and who will benefit. Here are a few paragraphs from their preamble:
- A society’s development increasingly depends upon its capacity for innovation. Of all types of innovation, social innovation is one of the most crucial. Social innovation enables the implementation of more effective, just and sustainable solutions to increasingly complex social problems.
- Over the past few decades, Quebec has proven innovative on the social level. The creation of daycare centres and youth employment centres, the initiation of dialogue with First Nations communities or psychosocial intervention, and in addressing rural living and the social economy—all exemplify shifts in the policy framework.
- Our successes are significant. Yet practices developed over the past fifty years are being rendered obsolete due to the growing complexity of certain issues.
- The demographic shift in Quebec calls for a new social contract between generations. Climate change and attacks on biodiversity demand that we redefine our relationship with natural resources. Globalization is shaking the very foundations of social and economic relations. And though digital technology increases mobility and access to information, it also has the potential to further break the social fabric be deeply divisive, creating new forms of social inequality.
- Social innovations are “social,” both in their processes and end results. They meet social needs while forging new relations between people and groups that may not otherwise collaborate. Social innovation can only be born in a spirit of openness. In this sense, social innovators were precursors to what institutions and corporations are seeking more and more of today: accelerated technological innovation through what is referred to as open innovation.
The Declaration analyses 12 key factors to enable the emergence and sustainability of social innovation and offers 10 recommendations.
They are looking for public support from across Canada. The link to the Declaration is here.
To sign and support the declaration click here