Social Innovation is an emerging field that takes many different forms, from a consumer-farmer supported eco-agriculture venture in a suburb area of Beijing where food safety is the biggest concern, to the use of big data by the Seoul Metropolitan Government to bring more convenience to millions of commuters, to the first social impact bond initiative in Japan to help teenagers in foster care have a better life. These are a few of the examples discussed at the East Asia Social Innovation Initiative (EASII) workshop held in Seoul in November 2015.
The East Asia Social Innovation Initiative is a collaborative venture aimed at creating and supporting a robust social innovation movement in China, Japan, Korea and elsewhere. Launched by the LePing Social Entrepreneur Foundation (China), the Nippon Foundation (Japan) and the Hope Institute (Korea), the initiative aims to play a critical role in raising awareness about social innovation and promoting an environment that helps social enterprises, nonprofit organizations, impact investors and other change agencies achieve greater impact.
As the three major economies of East Asia, China, Japan and Korea face many of the same urgent social challenges, ranging from an aging society to pollution, and each has its own unique innovative projects and ideas on how to resolve them. The region lacks a shared base of concepts, research and theories of positive social change that can fit the needs, culture and environment of the three countries. To take social innovation in East Asia to the next level requires active exchanges of ideas and values as well as integration and collective impact that crosses sectors and the region. Here, EASII can play a pioneering role.
The inaugural EASII workshop was held in July in Tokyo 2015; a second workshop convened in Seoul in November 2015 in partnership with The 2015 Global Social Economy Forum. Participants shared the latest trends and practices in social innovation in the three countries as well as the challenges they face. We were inspired and encouraged by the creativity and determination evident in the case studies from the three countries. At the same time, it became clear that isolated efforts led by even the best and brightest organizations cannot solve the complex social problems that exist today. We need to create a market for social innovation where cross-sector players meet, get inspired and work together. This will require systematic approaches and a new type of leadership that goes beyond “government-social sector collaboration” or “nonprofit alliances”. With this goal in mind, EASII will serve as an accountable research body and network hub by working closely with leading cross-sector organizations active in social innovation in East Asia and globally to develop new concepts, benchmarks and solutions to challenges for social investment and social innovation that will serve the needs, culture and environment of East Asian countries.
The Stanford Center for Social Innovation defines social innovation as a novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just than present solutions. Social innovation is a continuing process rather than an ideology. As a foundation established with the mission of leveraging social capital to help the poor, Leping Social Entrepreneur Foundation is committed to making a bigger impact in China as well as East Asia, and is eager for more innovators and solution makers to join EASII.