Green Shoots Of Social Innovation

HERE’s a nugget of information that is sure to make your day.

Did you know that the video revolution is not just happening on social media, but across rural India where farmers are making and sharing videos of best agricultural practices and transforming the countryside – and their lives?

This is one example of social innovation – a buzzword in every company corridor these days – undertaken by Digital Green, a non-profit organisation headquartered in Delhi and impacting villages in 21 countries, including  Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Ghana, Niger and Tanzania.

These 10-minute videos are made for farmers, by farmers. As CEO and founder Rikin Gandhi has said: “They showcase the farmer as the protagonist, producer and exhibitor. More importantly, they help in sharing farming technologies.”

Beena Devi, a beneficiary from the Khagaria district in Bihar, explained why they work: “With the videos, everyone understands the processes, even those who are illiterate. Our yield has increased as have our profits, now we have money to use for our children’s education.”

So what is social innovation? The Stanford Graduate School of Business, defines it as “a novel solution to a problem that is more effective, sustainable, or just than current solutions. The value created accrues primarily to society rather than to private individuals.” In other words, quite simply: an innovative idea that benefits society.

But how does an idea translate to action and inspire positive social change? Who are the stakeholders and what tools can be employed to perpetuate a sustainable model?

First, the success of a model relies heavily on thorough research and measurable results. But where basic indices of poverty, education, healthcare and the environment remain primary concerns – like in India –  social innovation requires various stakeholders across non-profit, public and private sectors to collaborate. These include individuals, corporations and/or social enterprises, educational institutions, financial institutions and government authorities.

The most powerful tool available is of course technology, as it makes the model accessible to a much broader audience, and therefore much more replicable.

India – currently in the thick of a startup revolution – is also becoming the hotbed of social innovation, and there are already a number of examples of impactful, inspirational ideas.

From RangeDe who crowdfund capital to lend to borrowers for livelihood projects in underserved communities; to Paperman who encourage citizens to donate their trash or monetize recyclable waste and pay it forward to charities; and Mumbai-based Mirakle Couriers who exclusively hire deaf people – the logic being couriers need visual skills but no verbal communications to do their job.

Often the simplest ideas are the most effective agents for positive impact and societal progress. But clearly, social innovation is rooted in the rejection of apathy and in actioning empathy – and this can only be good news for us all!

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