5 lessons on Collaborative Social Innovation

5 lessons on Collaborative Social Innovation

5 lessons on Collaborative Social Innovation

Collaborative social innovation means working with a group of open-minded individuals invested in exploring and creating social change through a not-so-new-but-new-to-non-profit process that encourages abstract, yet grounded, idealistic, yet realistic, and creative, yet linear thinking.

The Canadian Mental Health Association’s journey with the collaborative social innovation process was slightly different from most. We wanted to address the issue of workplace stress management using an e-learning platform, so we jumped onboard without a second thought.

Midway through we realized we needed to incorporate prototyping. This was at the core of our learning from Leading Boldly Network. We utilized storyboarding to test our assumptions about the flow of our e-learning module. We took the module’s pages and printed them on slides, which  were shuffled, leaving them out of order. Two staff members then re-ordered the slides independently of one another, brought them back and explained the rationale for their order. This step resulted in a revised and refined flow to our e-learning module.

Our top 5 takeaways from the collaborative social innovation process were:

  1. Start from the beginning. Don’t assume you know the solution to your problem; you might be addressing the wrong problem.
  2. Ask for help and utilize online resources. We used storyboarding.
  3. It’s okay if you don’t know what you’re doing. Most people starting this process don’t. Just don’t be afraid to admit this and ask for help.
  4. Pay attention if you hear your inner voice saying: “That’s impossible”, “We don’t have the time” or “I don’t think there’s a benefit to this process.” Anything’s possible. You do have the time if you create it. And there is always going to be a benefit of spending more time thinking with a group of motivated, charged-up people to address a real-world social problem.
  5. Form a strong solution team to help you get collaborative social innovation off the ground and engage in clear, timely communication with that team.

We launched our e-learning module in June 2013. We’ve had a fantastic response to the module and look forward to creating more.  Our participation strengthened the quality of our e-learning module and we would, without a doubt, utilize the process from the outset next time. 

Morgan Craig Broadwith is Manager, Workplace Mental Health at the Calgary chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association.