Where Does Social Innovation Come From?

Press Release | Justmeans | November 7, 2011

Every year since 2009 when the Social Innovation Awards began, Justmeans has asked the question: Who are the leading social innovators? And to arrive at an understanding of who they are requires the answers to questions like “what is innovation?” and “how do we measure it?” Should it be by size, impact, revenue, costs, or creativity? And every year, Justmeans has assembled a group of leading minds to address this issue.

Beyond answering what comprises social innovation and who the leading practitioners are, the Awards also pull social innovation out of the abstract and give it a place. In other words, the Awards help answer the questions: where does social innovation come from? Are large companies the only players? Is there one country that is at the forefront of social innovation? How do nonprofits fit in?

With less than a month to go until the application deadline for this year’s Awards (November 30, 2011), the answers to these questions are beginning to come in and the landscape of social innovation is beginning to take shape. Based on our limited data set, here are some of the most interesting facts:

  • The continual increase in applications requests since 2009 indicates that social innovation is more of a priority than ever before.
  • Of all the organizations participating in this year’s Awards, 14% are nonprofits.
  • Similarly, 20% of all the organizations are corporations on the Fortune 500.
  • Social innovation is truly global: 39% of organizations participating are based outside the US, and of that percentage, both companies and nonprofits come from 17 countries on all five continents.

Based on these numbers, not only does this year look to be the most diverse year in the Social Innovation Awards history, but also social innovation seems to be a growing trend across all boundaries. We at Justmeans are delighted to be recognizing those at the forefront of this trend and we look forward to seeing whom the winners will be in this year and in those to come. 

Additionally, we are delighted to announce two new additions to our judging roster: Ken Banks and Justin Goldbach.

Ken Banks is the founder of kiwanja.net, devotes himself to the application of mobile technology for positive social and environmental change in the developing world, and has spent the last 19 years working on projects in Africa. His early research resulted in the development of FrontlineSMS, an award-winning text messaging-based field communication system aimed at grassroots non-profit organisations. In 2009 he was named a Laureate of the Tech Awards, an international awards program which honours innovators from around the world who are applying technology to benefit humanity. He was named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer in May 2010 and an Ashoka Fellow in 2011, and is the recipient of the 2011 Pizzigati Prize for Software in the Public Interest. The MacArthur Foundation initially supported his work, and he is the current recipient of grants from the Open Society Institute, Rockefeller Foundation, HIVOS, the Omidyar Network and the Hewlett Foundation. @Kiwanja

Justin Goldbach is a founding member of the Aspen Institute's Center for Business Education, wherein he worked to integrate social, environmental, and ethical thinking into business school curriculum and business practice. Managing relationships with over 150 schools in 24 countries, Justin led innovative programs such as the Beyond Grey Pinstripes b-school ranking, requiring analysis of over 80,000 pages of submitted data, and the Faculty Pioneer Awards, called the “Oscars of the business school world” by the Financial Times. Developing relationships with a wide range of corporate partners is central to the success of the Institute's annual Business & Society International MBA Case Competition, a program Justin created and still directs as an Advisor. @AspenCaseComp

To learn more about our judges, see our previous release here.

For more information on the Social Innovation Awards or to request an application, visit www.socialinnovationawards.com or email [email protected]


Henry M. Frechette III


Community Architect / Social Innovation Awards


P: (866) 508-0993 ext. 189 E: [email protected]