“The social innovator needs to understand the basic business model, finance and those other business skills, but the social innovator also has to turn mission into reality,” says Stott, a senior teaching faculty on social innovation at Cambridge Judge and CEO of Keystone Development Trust.
“The goal is to be nice to people, save the planet and make a profit,” he adds, lining up a mobile phone, an eyeglass case and a plastic bottle on a table, to illustrate how the stars should align for social ventures to succeed. “It’s not always the easiest thing to pull off.”
The Centre for Social Innovation aims to help social innovators do just that.
The website for the Centre went live on 23 September, outlining the Centre’s mission and featuring various resources related to social innovation including research, events and Stott’s first blog post for the Centre, which focuses on how the public sector is playing – in contrast to its sometimes stodgy image – an increasingly important role in social innovation, especially in the technology space.
The Centre seeks to support and help create social ventures and projects, linking social innovators, academia and policymakers in various sectors – government, corporations and non-profit organisations. The Centre will also help promote research focused on social innovation and social ventures, create new academic courses catering to practitioners, and organise training programmes and events.
The Centre’s leaders, in addition to Stott, are Academic Director Paul Tracey, Professor of Innovation and Organisation at Cambridge Judge, and Research Director Helen Haugh, University Senior Lecturer in Community Enterprise at Cambridge Judge.
“We intend to make a real difference through impactful research, teaching and venture support,” said Tracey.
"The time is right for the School to be creating a centre designed to promote social value creation, and which advocates a new kind of leadership that is concerned with the deep-rooted social and environmental problems we collectively face. We aim to stimulate a new generation of social innovators as well as supporting the existing social innovation community locally and globally."
Among the Centre’s local activities are support for Social Incubator East, a Cambridge-based organisation that helps social ventures in the East of England to grow. Social Incubator East has its second training weekend at Cambridge Judge from 10-12 October, at which Stott and Tracey will teach.
“We’re trying to breed a new generation of social ventures,” said Stott.
“We don’t use the term ‘social entrepreneurs.’ For us, social ventures can be generated by the public sector, the private sector and NGOs – and the lines are increasingly blurring between them – so long as they have strong social impact and can prove it.”
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