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Do we overlook the value of relationship in social innovation?

I recently read an article by Kent Pekel CEO of search institute in SSIR, on how important it was for funders not to overlook relationship building, but to focus on projects that champion this strategy. This is how they can enact real change and achieve their objectives. Although this was focused on youth success in education, the values and recommendations he gave mirrored those of the Social Innovation Community (SIC) event in Zagreb on the 11th of May, 2017.

As part of our experimentation work, SIC has identified and is supporting 5 host centres across Europe – there are Italy (Municipality of Torino), Norway (SoCentral), Estonia (Parnu) and Croatia (CIPA, the Social Innovation Laboratory and the City of Zagreb). The host centres had each co defined local challenges such as the refugee crisis, urban revitalization and youth unemployment, and had been working on the co creation of different solutions to these challenges. 

On May 11th, SIC hosted an event in Zagreb, Croatia, bringing together all participants from each host centre, to meet, share ideas and challenges, and learn from each other. Each presented their local challenge and how different solutions to these has been prototyped and experimented – e.g., the strategy and work it took to reach their end goals, the challenges they encountered and how they overcame these. The event also featured a session, which gave each participant the opportunity to ask for help and reflections for how to address sustaining proposed solutions.

By doing this, the event went beyond shared learning and actually worked to build not only a new network of common understanding, but also a support network for those people working to eradicate social problems in their local contexts. Each host centre spoke about how these new relationships will be key in their success, since participants could now rely on others who really understood their problem, for help and inspiration if ever they needed it.

So Kent is right, relationship building is often overlooked, but its importance should not be under estimated. Social innovation works best when ideas can be shared and build upon, and good relationships are the basis on which this can happen.