Social innovation is gaining a lot of momentum along the two coasts of the country. San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, D.C., New York are just a few places where these new ideas are taking hold. The Bay Area alone seems to be a hotbed of social investing, venture philanthropy, social enterprise, etc. The Social Capital Markets Conference earlier this month in San Francisco brought together leaders in the social investing, philanthropy, nonprofit, social enterprise space to talk about how to create a social capital market (a market for capital employed towards solving social problems). You can read a roundup of different blogs on the conference here and see video of various sessions here.
At the same time, foundations in the Bay Area, New York, Boston understand this growing movement and are providing growth capital and other incentives to help social entrepreneurs find and solve the root causes of problems.
These cities are witnessing an exciting blend of talent, money, great ideas, energy, initiative and enthusiasm that is resulting in some new ways to tackle the many problems facing our country today.
I’d like to see that similar energy and enthusiasm here in Austin and in the Southwest region of our country. Austin is the 3rd largest venture capital city in the country. I would argue that being a venture capital center makes Austin a ripe candidate for social innovation. San Francisco and Seattle (venture capital cities #1 and #2) have embraced social innovation and are home to several venture philanthropy funds, capacity and growth capital-focused foundations, social entrepreneurs, social investment funds, and social enterprises. Over the last ten to fifteen years these communities have fostered a new way of thinking about and blending the for-profit, non-profit and government sectors in order to find solutions to complex social problems.
I see the same opportunity for Austin. We have a wealthy, talented entrepreneurial sector, a diverse nonprofit sector, and complex social problems. If we can embrace social innovation here we can not only solve our own problems, but also, and more importantly, we can add to the national conversation. We need to come together with new ideas that tackle our problems at the root. The problems of the economy, education, healthcare, poverty are too large for any single entity or sector to solve. These times call for bigger solutions. Social innovation provides those solutions.