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Boston College School of Social Work
Center for Social Innovation

“Social service and human service organizations need to reposition themselves to take full advantage of new ideas."

—Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, CSI Co-Director


What Defines the Socially Innovative Organization?

Today’s challenges require that organizations as well as individuals develop innovation competencies. While much has been written and conceptualized regarding the social entrepreneur, or sole innovator developing new institutional structures to respond to social problems, a shifted paradigm requires attention to the potential for existing organizations to develop, implement, and sustain innovation.

The socially innovative organization is one that has the commitment, readiness, and ability to innovate to respond to social problems. Innovation becomes not just the doing of one novel and effective program, but a sustained ability to continue to respond to new challenges.


Principles of the Socially Innovative Organization

Commitment represents the organizational values and attitudes that promote and sustain innovation, which are a culture of innovation, the market orientation, and the expectation of a deep understanding of complex social issues.

Readiness speaks to the necessity to not only have a culture, but also to have the people who understand the need for change and are ready to move forward. Readiness is achieved through future-oriented leadership, engaged teams, and collaborative relationships by which agencies have the manpower to develop, implement, and sustain innovation.

The ability to engage in social innovation is critical to bringing the innovation to reality. Through organizational infrastructure that supports innovation, metrics that calibrate progress, business acumen, and technology infusion, agencies develop both the willingness to engage in social innovation and the ability to implement.