A summer school with a difference: How to design “good” innovations

This summer, SOAS, University of London, will hold its first full-fledged summer school on social entrepreneurship, running from the 6th to the 24th of July. Full details and application instructions can be found here. The official long title of the summer school is Social Entrepreneurship: Enlightened Organisational Frameworks for Sustainable Prosperity’. Applications are expected from a diverse range of prospective students (including mature students and science & engineering majors) from around the world, some of whom will be completely new to the world of social innovation and impact while others will have significant entrepreneurial and/or non-entrepreneurial work experience.

Tuukka is excited to act as the main coordinator of this year’s programme. Beyond delivering a highly accessible ‘crash course’ on social entrepreneurship and innovation theory (based on a review of leading journal articles and books), a key purpose of the programme is to help students develop their own approach to distinguishing between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ innovations. While it may at first glance seem almost an impossible task to evaluate economic activities in such seemingly moral terms–especially at a time of immense dynamism and complexity–the point is to begin to understand in more detail how the organisational design choices we make can lead to dramatically different social and ecological consequences.For example, a bank that offers standard services to savers and borrowers can choose to invest most of its money into social impact projects (as in the case of Triodos Bank); a new tech-driven taxi service can make pro-active choices on how to contribute positively to local communities and the environment; and an online marketplace can promote the sharing of unused electronic appliances (such as power drills or amplifiers) between neighbours as opposed to just selling more stuff for stuff’s sake.

The summer school proposes that developing a strong innovation literacy is an important priority for students who wish to positively contribute to today’s dynamic hybrid economy that offers abundant possibilities for both value creation and value destruction. How we ‘format’ our entrepreneurial organisations–and indeed how we choose our future employers–matters a great deal socially, ecologically and economically. Unpacking their organisational designs (and the socio-technical assemblages that make them work) is an endeavour that can empower those who wish to bring about sustainable futures around the world.

Students who enroll in this year’s summer school will benefit not only from the critical, even radical, academic culture of SOAS, University of London, but also from proximity to the wider social innovation ecosystem of London. Accordingly, an impressive cast of leading academic experts and practitioners are currently being invited from institutions such as the University of Oxford, University College London (Institute for Global Prosperity), London School of Economics (Department of Management), the New Economics Foundation, Nesta and Impact Hub Islington to share their work with students, and tours will be organised to take students to important “hotspots” and interesting events beyond the classroom.

At least two to three summer school sessions will be dedicated to clarifying how impact can also be achieved through the organisational designs of so-called impact labs and hubs, important cases of which can be found not only in Europe and North America but also in Sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia.

*This post was originally published in slightly different form on Tuukka’s website at http://www.tuukkatoivonen.org

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