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Redefining Innovation in Today's Social Sector

Innovation exists in a number of different forms. The impression promoted by mainstream media and corporate marketing campaigns is that innovation is exclusive to groundbreaking technologies and sophisticated software. But the fact is, innovation is happening all around us, in the most simple applications and often driven by the most unlikely players.

The social sector has not always stood at the forefront of innovative thinking. Nonprofits in particular have traditionally been risk averse, sticking to tried-and-true practices and slower to adopt new technologies than their corporate counterparts. But the increasing severity of our global problems, combined with a growing number of corporations and entrepreneurs addressing those issues, is forcing nonprofits to respond quicker, operate leaner, and demonstrate measurable results faster than ever before. That shift requires innovative thinking, and it's a strategy that many of today's nonprofits are already embracing.

We’ve been fortunate to work with and observe thousands of nonprofits and social enterprises launching innovative programs to address social problems, like tracking practical patient costs and quality indicators to optimize surgical access in Nepal, leveraging open source technology to provide free education for refugees, training rats in Tanzania as a cost effective means of detecting tuberculosis, and using recycled smartphones to monitor illegal logging and train local conservation groups to intervene. Many of these programs might not champion themselves as innovators, but their results tell a different story. Their sustainable business models, creative strategies and dedication to continual learning and improvement illustrate their potential to fundamentally solve the problems they're addressing, and that is the core value of social innovation.

We created the Classy Awards to recognize these efforts - to call attention to the models and creative approaches that these innovative nonprofits and social enterprises are introducing every day. We're excited to see this year's pool of programs, and encourage you to share yours as well.

- Pat

Nominations for the Classy Awards are open until February 29th. Submit your program for recognition and join the community of organizations changing the world through social innovation. Visit

pat_walsh.jpgThe preceding is a guest post by Pat Walsh, Co-founder and CIO,

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