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The Young Foundation's Social Silicon Valleys
Sarah Rich, 29 May 06

The Young Foundation, founded by renowned social entrepreneur Michael Young (also the founder of Open University), is dedicated to pursuing social innovation through research into unmet social needs, and the establishment of initiatives and enterprises to meet those needs in areas such as health, education, housing, and cities.

They recently released a comprehensive report called Social Silicon Valleys ("a manifesto for social innovation: what it is, why it matters, how it can be accelerated"), which compares the vast resources invested into scientific research each year with the meager amounts alloted toward the pursuit of social innovation.

The world today faces a serious innovation gap. In fields ranging from chronic disease to climate change, we badly need more effective models and solutions...This manifesto examines how social innovation happens in NGOs, the public sector, movements and markets...It makes the case for much more systematic initiatives to tap the ubiquitous intelligence that exists in every society and to increase the chances of social innovations succeeding.
In this manifesto we advocate a much more concerted approach to social innovation, and have coined the phrase ‘Social Silicon Valleys’ to describe the future places and institutions that will mobilise resources and energies to tackle social problems in ways that are comparable to thinvestments in technology made in the first silicon valley and its equivalents around the world.

The report introduces social innovation and the past work of the Young Foundation in depth, followed by profiles of innovative individuals, organizations and movements. It lays out the building blocks of successful innovation, from prototyping and piloting ideas to executing them and scaling them up, through anticipating and preventing failure. Finally, it describes an agenda for action, calls out key allies, points toward tools, and affirms that this is merely a preliminary step - that a global network is necessary, and will be the engine that speeds up social innovation.

The authors included their top "10 world-changing social innovations" (coincidence?), which are:

1. The Open University – and the many models of distance learning that have opened up education across the world and are continuing to do so.

2. Fair trade – pioneered in the UK and USA in the 1940s-80s and now growing globally.

3. Greenpeace – and the many movements of ecological direct action which drew on much older Quaker ideas and which have transformed how citizens can engage directly in social change.

4. Grameen – alongside BRAC and others whose new models of village and community based microcredit have been emulated worldwide.

5. Amnesty International – and the growth of human rights.

6. Oxfam (originally the Oxford Committee for Relief of Famine) and the spread of humanitarian relief.

7. The Women’s Institute (founded in Canada in the 1890s)– and the innumerable women’s organisations and innovations which have made feminism mainstream.

8. Linux software - and other open source methods such as Wikipedia and Ohmynews that are transforming many fields.

9. NHS Direct and the many organisations, ranging from Doctor Robert to the Expert Patients Programme, which have opened up access to health and knowledge about health to ordinary people.

10. Participatory budgeting models – of the kind pioneered in Porto Alegre and now being emulated, alongside a broad range of democratic innovations, all over the world.

Clearly, these are issues we've been thinking of and discussing since the beginning. It's a great affirmation to see so many worldchanging ideas presented here, and in a context that illuminates achievements, successes and advancements, calls for more of them, and makes suggestions for practical ways to move forward.

What would be your list of the Top 10 most worldchanging social innovations? Let us know in the comments!

Thanks, Geoff.

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They forgot:
Eco-Literacy - which is being pioneered by the likes of Evergreen in Canada, the Center for Ecoliteracy in the U.S., and Learning Through Landscapes in England.

New Media - which is being pushed forward by the likes of Worldchanging (of course), Alternet, Crooks & Liars, Tom Paine, Common Dreams, PR Watch, TreeHugger, Etc.

The Genuine Progress Index- Which is being pursued all over the world but in Canada is being pushed forward by GPIAtlantic and GPIPacific

Participatory Politics - Which goes further than the participatory budgeting of Porto Alegre and is being instituted in Venezuela and now Bolivia

The Slow Food Movement - Which is reconnecting people to place through food

New Economics- Which has a long history but is actually becoming much more popular due to the like of Herman Daly, Paul Hawken, David Korten, E.F. Shumacher, and the New Economics Foundation


Bioneers- Which is just a frigin fantastic organization

So that's my list. I'm sure others who frequent this site can add their own. And I encourage them to do so.

Jeremy Kirouac

Posted by: Jeremy Kirouac on 29 May 06

Pilot to improve health outcomes ...

When you want to achieve success in any field the first thing you do is research how others have achieved success.

In the medical system, successes and failures should be recorded and shared within a framework referred to as Evidence-based Medicine.

The framework has obvious merits, however; the patient’s perspective is rarely sought and included.

This means the health system;
1) doesn’t place sufficient value on confirming success via the patient perspective, and;
2) doesn’t record or recognize success when it occurs outside the framework.

We must ask … who is in the best position to provide evidence of health success?

I believe it’s the patient - so I created the 'Case Health – Health Success Stories' website in 2001 to collect and share patient anecdotal accounts of success.

There are many ways we can contribute to our communities but most haven’t considered information as one of those ways.

You can help improve another person’s health by sharing information on how you achieved success – and if you do that, you’re contributing something far more valuable than cash to your community.

The Case Health online database links keywords to stories. This framework serves a dual purpose. The database can be searched by symptom, condition, or treatment so patients can discuss what they’ve found with their doctor. Because the database also collects significant research findings, analysts can gain ‘insights’ into cause and effect, develop theories, or analyse public health statistics, benefits, or risks.

I recorded my first Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) health success story in November 2003. A recent significant increase in LDN linked success stories prompted me to write the article; ‘Drug Stops Multiple Sclerosis – But Sufferer’s Can’t Get it’. In the article I highlight the growing number of LDN health success stories, and advocate for health reform.

I'd like to see patient perspectives included in all evidence-based health frameworks. With governments around the world presently considering or developing new health frameworks, the timing is right for reform.

If you’d like to contribute your health success story please use Case Health’s online story submission form or email contact form.

I'm happy to help anyone with their story. PS The website term ‘case study’ simply means a real-life story with extra details so others gain a clear picture of how your success was achieved, and how they can repeat your success for themselves.

Case Health – Health Success Stories is a free worldwide community health service website located at and

Posted by: Cris Kerr on 29 May 06

While I am on my research for my studies in Innovations in health and social work, I have found this information valuable, if ever you have anymore of such may I kindly receive it through my e-mail as given.Also, how can I access your information on Case Health-Health Success Stories, the service user involvement will provide me with the accurate information about what they want, what they need to change, how new changes will affect or contribute to their wellbeing.

I will greatly appreciate this

Yours faithfully,

Aminandaba Fuyana (Mr)

Posted by: AMINANDABA FUYANA on 30 May 06

Worth noting that Michael Young also founded the School for Social Entrepreneurs, which now runs year-long programmes aiming to develop and support such individuals driving social innovation at all levels.

Posted by: Nick Temple on 30 May 06

They also forgot to mention that 9 out of 10 of those kinds of initiatives are actually just red-washes for Anglosaxon capitalism.

There's a reason why Jean Bricmont's new book, Humanitarian Imperialism, is a best-seller in Europe.

Posted by: Lorenzo on 30 May 06

I think local currencies might also count as a top social innovation (but maybe not in the top ten?).

Posted by: M on 30 May 06



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