Socially focused organizations and enterprises have experienced explosive growth in their resources along with a corresponding rise in the expectations that internal and external stakeholders hold for them. Despite the increasing size of the organized social sector, there is a growing awareness among practitioners and donors alike that we must accelerate the pace of social innovation and our collective capacity to scale-up those innovations to achieve deep social impact.
Experience shows us that innovation is abundant, but it is rarely linked and leveraged for impact beyond the immediate project, organization or country where generated. What exists in the field today are a relatively small number of social enterprises and institutions with the means to attract the capital investments and partners to achieve scale, while the majority of locally generated, yet highly replicable innovations remain isolated and in most cases under-utilized.
In the traditional development model, institutions generate their own ideas, then develop, market, implement and distribute the approach themselves. Today, an overly centralized, closed approach to research and development is becoming obsolete, as idea generation, conversion and diffusion is increasingly viewed as an integrated flow involving multiple participants. If we are to be successful in accelerating the development and replication of innovative ideas, the social sector must invest in building deep connections across traditional boundaries. This involves bridging technical, organizational and geographic separation.
Accelerating Local Innovation to Global Impact
Impact Ventures responds to the social sector’s struggle to take innovative approaches to scale and to adapt to a rapidly changing environment where idea generation, conversion and diffusion extend beyond the boundaries of any single organization or sector.
Impact Ventures focuses activities around the innovation value chain, spanning three distinct phases: idea generation, idea conversion and idea diffusion. This requires a systemic understanding of how good ideas and practices are generated, converted into useful practice, and diffused for replication. We institutionalize the practice of social entrepreneurs by blueprinting their innovations and supporting the implementation of these replicable models through other organizations. Replicating and then disseminating successful approaches in new contexts spurs second-generation and operational innovation from which new methodologies flow and new fields of practice emerge.
Impact Ventures draws on the network dynamics of the Impact Alliance, which has over 200 organizational and 2500 individual members working in more than fifty countries. The Impact Alliance provides an international platform to catalyze idea generation and showcase innovations that have proven to be effective, attracting implementing organizations, entrepreneurs and donors who can apply it more broadly.