This past week, Prodigium’s Co-Founder Tobias Deml and Lead Producer Tessa Byford had the honor of attending the 2022 Social Innovation Summit, sponsoring a Media Studio together with SIE Society to bring cutting-edge insights from keynote speakers and panelists to an audience beyond the summit.
The Social Innovation Summit is an annual conference by Landmark Ventures, in the 2022 edition held in Washington, D.C., that brings together “innovators, changemakers, wayward thinkers, and black swans” who share a common goal of making real and lasting change towards social good. Attendees come from a diverse array of personal, educational, and professional backgrounds (in both business and the nonprofit sector), all with a unique perspective on what social innovation looks like in 2022.
Insights from the 2022 Social Innovation Summit
Below are insights and stories from some of the many innovators we had the pleasure of interviewing during the conference in the SIE Society Media Studio. The actual interview series out of the SIE Society Media Studio is currently being edited and will be accessible in the soon future. Here's a sneak peek:
At Al Roker Entertainment, we kind of have a mantra, in a sense, that we have to look at ourselves in the mirror at the end of the day. What have we done, and did we do no harm? Have we helped advance ideas, or did we contribute to the dysfunction? I think the programming we do, the people we interact with, the partners we team up with, are about making things better, about non-exploitative entertainment and information.
Al Roker, CEO at Al Roker Entertainment
We’ve just done some research on hopes and fears, which is a survey of 52,000 workers across 44 countries, with some really interesting findings there in terms of what workers are looking for: spoiler alert, the great resignation is still on. People want a choice, people want a voice.
Bhushan Sethi, Partner at PwC
The great thing about the Social Innovation Summit is it brings together people from a variety of backgrounds. It’s a big potpourri, if you will, it's like the crock pot. You just throw it all in there and start cooking. There's nonprofits that need help or want a partner, there’s big companies trying to figure out what resources they may have that can help people.
John Wordin, CEO of LifeScore, Founder of No Vet Alone/Life Aid Research Institute
The majority of the world’s population does not have access to banking services. There's a lot of predatory practices that are in place in financial services outside of the traditional banking system that prey on people who are unbanked or underbanked, making it harder for them to build up wealth. Solutions like Remitly really open that up and give access to folks who don't have the traditional means to walk into a financial institution and open up an account.
Kim Vu, Vice President of ESG at Remitly
We're currently facing this crisis where the pandemic has completely destroyed opportunities for low income people in college. There's a crisis of enrollment, there's a crisis of completion. When I think about diversity in tech, I am very, very focused on: ‘who are the people coming from low income backgrounds? Who are the people that are first generation college students? Are they receiving benefit from the biggest economic opportunity that our generation has ever seen?’
Michael Ellison, CEO and Co-Founder of CodePath
We work with other organizations, nonprofits, and groups that want to make an impact in areas such as sustainability, health & wellness, financial empowerment, and workforce development. On the social impact side, I really get to think about how we can make programs free to access for all students and teachers, and how we can utilize the power that we have as an ed tech company to support those districts that need resources.
Brandon O'Brien Jankovsky, Senior Director of Social Impact at Discovery Education
I was frustrated with general contractors who said they had no idea how to find people in the community, and that there really weren't any people in the community that were capable of working. I knew that not to be true. So Project Community Capital essentially goes into the communities we serve and identifies people who are actually ready to work, who are capable, who have what we call ‘#RTA’: They're reliable, trustworthy, and they have ambition.
Dr. Gina Merritt, Founder of Project Community Capital, Owner at Northern Real Estate Urban Ventures
We invest in entrepreneurs and activists that are shifting power in the progressive movement. We think that media, and the people that are represented in the media, is actually a fundamental tool for change. If you can see it, if you can hear it, then you can be it.
Jessica Salinas, Chief Investment Officer at New Media Ventures
When we think about also where venture capital has actually gone over the past, you know, 10 plus years, it's gone to the same people in the same places and on average, you know, graduates of the same universities, and less than 5% go to women and people of color. [...] The good news is that there are ‘islands of excellence,’ where limited partners and venture capitalists have already started over-indexing their allocation into more people of color, into more diverse managers.
Nasir Qadree, Founder and Managing Partner at Zeal Capital Partners
As a Black woman in America, and someone that cares about human rights and equality, I realized that majority of the people incarcerated in our country are people of color, and women were going into prison at rates that were out of control for quite some time. I wanted to work for an organization that was tackling the issue of incarceration in America, in particular, women's incarceration in America.
Natika Washington, Vice President Corporate Partnerships at Prison Fellowship
Nonprofits, just like businesses, need to operate efficiently, need to handle their financials well, need to steward their donors and keep track of them just like a company keeps track of their customers and engages with their customers.
Rachel Hutchisson, VP of Global Social Responsibility at Blackbaud
I am a part of a small group of people that are working with 230 of the world's largest companies [...] I can be the one to help them think big picture, help them visualize what ‘good’ looks like, but I am not the one responsible for making it happen. I can only say, ‘here you go, here's your framework, here's your roadmap, this is what you should do.
Nandika Madgavkar, Senior Director of Strategy and Growth at Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose (CECP)
One of the biggest challenges that we've been presented with at Eat.Learn.Play, when we approach our work [...] is making sure that we come across as authentic. We’ve got to make sure the community that we're serving feels like we actually show up and deliver in an authentic way. We don't want to treat our communities as charity, we want to treat them as partners.
Jose Corona, Vice President of Programs and Partnerships at Stephen & Ayesha Curry’s Eat.Learn.Play
When our employees decide to give generously from their own pocketbooks, we match it not just one for one, we match it double- two for one, and these are for nonprofits that are near and close to their heart.
Karen Price-Ward, Director of Social Impact at Stanley Black & Decker, Inc.
The opportunity that lays ahead for autonomous vehicles is this ability to really help others, particularly those who've been underserved by transportation today. You talk about folks that are physically disabled, or might have mental disabilities, and their ability to get around and enjoy life, to go to work, to get groceries. Cruise’s opportunity is to be able to serve them in a way that no one else has before.
Rob Grant, Senior Vice President Government Affairs and Social Impact at Cruisewe
More on Social Innovation
Innovation is one of the driving forces behind entrepreneurship, and in an age where both entrepreneurs and their customers are increasingly aware of the effects of business on larger society, a new, more community-minded form of innovation is gaining traction: social innovation.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development defines social innovation as “the design and implementation of new solutions that imply conceptual, process, product, or organisational change, which ultimately aim to improve the welfare and wellbeing of individuals and communities.” In other words, social innovation is the act of innovating with the goal of creating positive social or environmental change.
While this form of innovation has traditionally been promoted by nonprofits, there is a growing level of participation in the for-profit business sector. To be clear, for-profit companies aren’t throwing their financials out the window. In order to participate in social innovation, businesses are merging their products or services with larger social purposes, thus creating a symbiotic relationship between business operations and cause-related goals. This specific type of social innovation by for-profit endeavors is called “corporate social innovation.”
Note that corporate social innovation is different from corporate social responsibility, or CSR. While CSR mainly focuses on ensuring that companies’ policies and practices are ethical within their current business models, corporate social innovation involves an inherent integration between a company’s business model and a social or environmental purpose. Corporate social innovation is inherently a more active approach to corporate purpose than corporate social responsibility. There is some overlap between CSR department and social innovation efforts, but social innovators in the private sector typically work in the product development space, the program management space (a space that very frequently overlaps with CSR), or on the investing/venture capital side.
Examples of “social innovation” include products that benefit underserved populations, products that integrate quality education into their business model, and products that increase stakeholder access to resources that improve or enrich their lives.
Why is Social Innovation Important?
The terminology around social innovation is relatively new, but the concept of innovating for social good has existed for eons. Advancements in fields like healthcare, information technology, and sustainable transportation could theoretically be categorized as social innovation, particularly when the products or services in question were developed with a specific social goal in mind.
Traditional innovation mainly centers around innovating for the sake of profit, but social innovation centers, or at least takes into account, the impact of new products or services on stakeholders For example, as mentioned above, innovations in information technology often lead to socially positive outcomes, but when they are not developed within a social innovation framework they can also lead to regressive outcomes. Think of how social media has led to both increased awareness of societal problems AND the dissemination of harmful misinformation. How would major digital platforms look different if they had been developed with social innovation in mind?
In an increasingly interconnected world, the illusion that businesses operate in a vacuum is gone. Like it or not, businesses and their products impact the communities they operate in and the customers they serve, and social innovation provides an opportunity to make a positive impact beyond the limits of traditional CSR.
What is the Role of Social Innovation in Business?
That being said, when it comes to for-profit businesses, some natural skepticism around social innovation is understandable. Most businesses are already worried about maintaining their profit margins and breaking even, so taking socially positive goals into account can seem like a huge ask.
But what if we told you that social innovation can actually positively impact your business? The World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Social Innovation reports that benefits of social innovation in business include “not just financial returns but also improvements to long-term competitiveness, including access to new markets or consumers, strengthened supply chains and talent retention.”
Plus, social innovation will likely play a huge role in how companies relate to their consumer base. In a world where issues like climate change, political and refugee crises, and healthcare are at the forefront of daily conversation, businesses are and will continue to be held accountable for the wellbeing, or even survival, of their stakeholders.
More on SIE Society
The quotes from thought leaders above were part of our interview series with SIE Society. At Prodigium, the social impact of our films, documentaries and commercials is at the core of what we do. In late 2020, we helped co-found SIE Society, the first trade association in the space of Social Impact Entertainment . Together with members of the Producer's Guild of America Social Impact Entertainment Task Force, and our long-term nonprofit project Cinema of Change (which we co-founded with Robert Rippberger), the SIE Society builds a nexus of knowledge for all stakeholders in the entertainment space who intend to create impactful content.
You can find the 200+ organizations and 100+ resources SIE Society has assembled on the Society's website.
We hope that this blog inspires you to use your skillset to contribute to social innovation projects. At Prodigium, we believe that video storytelling is one of the most powerful tools social innovators can use to garner awareness and support for their endevors. We’ve helped companies like Ava and organizations like the NAACP form a connection with their audience and inspire action through the power of video storytelling. We also create social impact-oriented film and TV such as our HBO Max docuseries Gaming Wall Street. Arrange a call with Prodigium’s team to begin your social journey.