Two conferences on social innovation took place in China in October, in Beijing and Chongqing. Supported by the Young Foundation and the British Council, they brought together representatives from over 15 countries to discuss how societies can speed up the innovation of new solutions to problems like ageing, climate change, unemployment and ill-health.
Participants included senior ministers from China, senior officials from four UK government departments, and the leaders of many British and Chinese cities ranging from Beijing to Sheffield. The fact that the conferences were held in China is symptomatic of the Chinese authorities’ growing interest in the topic. Earlier in October, the Communist Party Central Committee committed China to pursuing social innovation alongside innovation in economics, culture, politics and technology.
The chief message from the conferences was that the most dynamic innovation is now happening in the space between the public, private and non-profit sectors. As yet, there is neither reliable means for supporting it, nor language for talking about it.
As a follow-up, participants have agreed to push forward the creation of a network of networks on social innovation; to collaborate in developing tools of social innovation, including money, skills and incubators; to design new search engines for identifying specific areas of innovation; and to produce publications from various countries on case studies, methods and analysis.
Accompanying the conferences, the Young Foundation has published a report, Social Innovation: What it is, why it matters, how it can be accelerated. It is continuing its own work with local partners in several Chinese cities, integrating social innovation into leadership development at national and local levels in China.