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Social innovation as a driver for green growth

Helen Goulden.
  • Published 23/03/2012
- The approach to thinking about innovation as something that everybody does rather then what businesses do or governments try to make people do, is really critical, said Helen Goulden at the Nordic Innovation Summit conference.


Helen Goulden gave an inspiring presentation on social innovation at the Nordic innovation Summit conference. Working for NESTA UK, the main promoter of innovation in the Great Britain, Helen oversees the design and delivery of projects that test new models for supporting and scaling social and environmental innovation.


- The challenges that we face across the globe are huge. Incremental innovation is not going to do anything, the idea that you can be eco efficient is wrong. The idea that you can tinker around the edges of a challenge and get any kind of change, is wrong.


- I get very enlivened and energized by transformative innovation, where you are looking at kind of new models that are disruptive, they are often counter cultural and they are often at odds with the dominant culture of the organization that you are working in, or at odds with societal norms. And I think climate change and the challenge of sustainability lies right at the centre of that.


Immediate innovation

Adressing Adjiedj Bakas opening speech on international trends that support green innovation, Helen believes that social and environmental challenges must be dealt with now. It is simply not enough to wait for future technology to solve our problems.


- Bakas painted some very bleak pictures of the future and some very positive pictures of the future. He talked about an increase in war, strife and the collapse of the Euro. Then he painted kind of an utopian vision of a technology driven world. I think that lies ahead, maybe, but it does not lie immediately ahead. And so the challenges to built resilience and capability and a comfort with having to adapt and change quickly in businesses, companies, families and communities, are important.


- The approach to thinking about innovation as something that everybody does rather then what businesses do or governments try to make people do, is really critical.


Green growth and welfare

A central theme for the Nordic Innovation Summit conference was if, and so, how there is a link between innovation in green growth and welfare.


- I believe that if you sense the conflict, you haven’t really understood the nature of the problem. I don’t think there is a tension, because you cannot continue to think about economic growth without thinking about social and environmental impacts.


- You have to have an open mind. I think the only certain mind is a closed mind, and so for those organisations, people, government officials and politicians that have and open mind, you can imagine a decent economy that incorporates social and environmental welfare very, very easily. If you have a closed mind and you see it as something that’s being added, then you haven’t kind of pushed those circles, economy, welfare and environment together in your mind. You will always see it as a tension.


Innovation in giving fund

Goulden also oversees the Innovation in giving fund project for NESTA. This project is one example of how to use collaborative technologies in order to show that everyone can be innovative in their communities.


- We know that the UK society gives less money than it used to. It gives less money and less time and the government is focused on the big society to try to make more people do things that they haven’t done before to address environmental concerns, and also meet social challenges.


- And so in the Innovation in giving fund we issued an open call for ideas. 437 ideas came back and we made them all just put it on videos. We have a Vimeo channel with 437 videos of people who have had innovative ideas. We are going to fund some of those, but the startling thing is that we made the application process open, by saying this is not a closed application process where a so called expert is going to judge you, you will kind of judge yourself.


- The things that are coming up from there are loads and loads of collaborative consumption style products with reciprocity in exchange. This is very much linked to the idea that you don't buy things, you share things.