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Boston College School of Social Work



The Social Innovation Collaborative in Santiago, Chile

Student ideation session

JULY 2015

In partnership with 3 human service agencies in Santiago and Pontifica Universidad Católica of Chile, the CSI facilitated a two-week Social Innovation Collaborative. Throughout the collaborative, student teams from both universities partnered with the agencies to address specific issues previously identified by the agencies.

The concept of the Social Innovation Collaborative was designed to build on the CSI’s previous work with nonprofit agencies as well the social innovation curriculums offered at the two schools. In previous years, the CSI has partnered with nonprofit agencies, both locally and abroad, to utilize innovation as a vehicle for enacting change from within the organization. For this collaboration, the concept of the Social Innovation Lab was modified to include significant student participation in the innovation process and leverage the cross-cultural expertise of the two universities.

The three partner agencies, who participated in the Collaborative are:

Nuestra Casa Provides wrap-around services and holistic programming for men experiencing homelessness

Centro Penitenciario San Joaquin Chile’s largest women’s prison with over 600 inmates

Fundación Mi Parque Converts abandoned spaces into parks within vulnerable communities by bringing together community members, local government and corporate social responsibility departments in the development of green spaces

Each agency identified a problem statement and/or opportunity to enhance the services they provide for the community. Together with a team of students, the agencies were set up with various immersion and field work activities in order to gain greater insight on the problem identified.

Though each team had a unique experience, given their problem statement and target population, some of the field research activities conducted included:

  • Interviews with agency stakeholders
  • Immersion exercises
  • Root cause analysis
  • Technology-based data collection
  • Focus groups
  • Community mapping
  • Surveys

After 4 days of conducting field research, the teams participated in a full day ideation workshop, which allowed them to synthesize their insights and generate recommendation for the nonprofits based on their findings. With guidance from staff and faculty from Pontifica Universidad Católica and Boston College, student teams were challenged to consider solutions ranging from technology-based interventions to social enterprise concepts.

On the second week, a community forum was held to incorporate feedback from the leadership of our partner agencies. Student teams presented their findings and recommendations to the agencies, which was followed by a feedback session. The refined recommendations reflect the challenge to think outside the box for opportunities beyond traditional interventions.

Some of the recommendations generated through the Social Innovation Collaborative included:

New participatory design methods to engage disconnected youth

Development of a social enterprise model to employ men experiencing homelessness

Redesign of visitation process to improve mother-child attachment

The Social Innovation Collaborative was met with extremely positive feedback from both students and participating agencies. In the next several months, the CSI will to continue the work with our partner agencies as they move towards implementation of the ideas that were generated.

Check back again soon to see the progress on the collaborative!