Disruptive social innovation describes a way of tackling social problems that requires engagement with communities to design a project or service that actually addresses their needs and interests. It disrupts more traditional ways of doing projects (i.e. planned for a couple of years, top-down and expensive and by the time things get going the problem has often changed) and the process is visionary, adaptive and highly collaborative.
The Connecting Education and Communities (CEC) project aims to disrupt disadvantage by strengthening the connections between communities and education. The project works with innovative, locally-led initiatives that drive the impact of CEC in each community through vision, adaptation, and a commitment to collaboration.
There is, however, more to disruption than just saying you are disruptive. We encourage each of our groups to intentionally apply some disruptive principles to their community development work, namely:
Engage with people at different parts of the project who have different ideas Getting a team of specialists together or relying on the same old faces is unlikely to produce innovation, simply because they are likely to stick to the approaches they already know and are familiar with. We encourage the CEC groups to use co-design to harness the knowledge and creativity of 'everyday people' in their communities to generate solutions.
Aim for a flat, rather than heirarchical structure Our CEC groups are necessarily flat structured - mostly because they don't have the resources to employ lots of people and establish a giant heirarchy. As Mia Bunge points out, this is to their advantage, as having strong leaders and an entrenched heirarchy can be incredibly narrowing for any innovation culture.
Have a good grasp of what it is you are trying to change Before joining CEC, our groups need to show they understand what effective community engagement looks like (or have experience in engaging whanau and communities) and seek out data or evidence that helps them understand the situation/s they are dealing with.
Start thinking at a systems level Our CEC groups form an (important) part of a bigger picture in their community. They are not one-off, isolated projects but instead interact and collaborate with other partners, projects and communities who are also tackling children's disadvantage. Click here for a fun 3 min youtube clip on the importance of systems thinking.
Have a "to do" philosophy. Get ideas out of heads and into a testing, prototyping and implementing cycle. We encourage our groups to use a design thinking process of test/iterate/ideate/test/iterate/ideate (and repeat!).
Disruption sounds a bit hairy - but once you get into the nuts and bolts it really isn't that tricky. And we promise that none of our change agents are harmed in the process!
Nadine Metzger provides evaluation support for the CEC project.