Skip to main content

Table 3 Taxonomy of social innovation approaches (six Bs of basic design approaches)a

From: Connecting corporations and communities: Towards a theory of social inclusive open innovation

• Bridging function: Bridging function implies meeting need gaps by linking the available actors supplying innovative solutions with needy communities. The existing suppliers may even design new solutions after bridges are formed if the need be, with or without participation of users.
There are several ways in which bridges are formed among different actors meeting the unmet social needs. Bringing actors together, creating platforms for sharing information and generating mutuality of interest and help in forging bridges. Many online match making platforms provide information of various actors who can on their own form association or partnership. Enabling a two-way flow of information may not be sufficient for forming bridges in every case but it increases the possibility given the willingness among the actors. A platform of voluntary organisations working for the blind and various agencies providing content, technologies, funding, etc., may trigger partnerships. Bridge function is one of the weakest process but a very popular one.
• Broker: Broker reduces the ex-ante and ex-poste transaction costs of the social innovators/entrepreneurs & meets the unmet social needs at mutually agreed terms.
Brokers not only bring the actors together but also mediate the deals. Thus, in the above case the agencies working for the blind may not be able to develop proposals, fulfil all the guidelines or generate enough funds to avail of innovative solutions or other support system. Social innovators involved in brokering will reduce transaction cost and create mutuality of interest. Generally, brokers also take responsibility for due diligence which the bridge function may not do.
• Benevolence: A philanthropic or charitable operation under which uniform solutions are offered to the affected people presumably meeting their similar unmet needs. The fit between supply and demand may be optimal or suboptimal depending upon the inherent nature of diversity and variability among users.
The charitable organisations may provide uniform solutions or in some cases may agree to adaptation of the solutions for meeting the needs of the user organisations. The benevolent organisations provide bridge and broker the deal and fund it to make sure that needs are met. Sustainability of such platforms or processes may depend upon the continued willingness of benevolent social innovators to underwrite the costs of meeting the unmet needs.
• Social Business: Where a commercial and/or not-for-profit organisation provides a business opportunity to people to meet their own needs or through third party enterprise with or without recovery of full cost of doing so. Social business enterprise can meet partly or fully the unmet needs of the users. There can also be differential pricing of products/services, which may enable their cross subsidization to the consumers.
In this model of social innovation, the mediating organisations enable entrepreneurial approaches for meeting the unmet needs. The social entrepreneurs may cover fully or partly the costs of providing products and services. Whether such a system will sustain depends upon the viability of the business plan or ability of the user organisation to cross subsidize different classes of users to run the activity. There are cases when the intermediating organisations provide business solutions but the costs are met by some philanthropists till such an organisation becomes self-reliant.
• Bonding: Social innovation may bring about evolution of common property/pool institutions and/or organisations by bonding communities & harnessing their social capital to meet their needs. Bonding can have implications for the way companies or institutional resources are mobilized or generated locally. These institutions can be autopoeitic that self-design and self- governed; or hetropoeitic or PPPP (Public-Private- People-Partnership) in nature (Dey, Singh and Gupta, 2017).
Social innovators in such cases invest their energy in creating community organisations or fostering social contracts so that with or without outside support, the needs of the disadvantaged sections are met. When differently abled children attend the regular schools, the intervening agencies or social innovators try to make the sighted students take responsibility of the blind ones. The differently abled children learn to share their strengths and seek help when necessary without feeling obliged or patronized. One can have a variety of institutional arrangements for creating social bonds to empower committees to meet their needs autopoeitically or hetropoeitically.
• Bundling & Blending: Bundling approach to social innovation implies creating a bundle or a combination package of existing component solutions or sourcing additional components available locally or externally or both to meet the unmet social need. The users have a choice in some cases to make or modify their own bundle to suit their needs with in their affordability constraints. Blending approach to social innovation implies re-configuring different components in a manner that the user cannot separate one component from the other. In this case the user has to take all of it or leave it. It cannot modify the blend except through appeal to the provider of blended solution to modify its offering in due course.
Both in product and service innovations, a wide scope exists for bundling and blending the variety of solutions so as to suit the needs of users. The bundling approach in the case of blind students would mean access to braille books, audio books, various devices for navigation and other services. Depending upon individual preferences one can choose to have all or a combination of some of them to improve affordability and flexibility. In the case of blending, one cannot separate different functions or features. Even if one is likely to use only two out of five features, one has to pay for all five. The re-configuration may not be possible either due to technological constraints or institutional ones.
It is not necessary that all these approaches occur in mutually exclusive manner. Either over time, i.e., sequentially or over space the functional integration can be facilitated to meet the unmet user needs. Empowerment of the communities meeting their needs through external provisioning may require institution building by the social innovators. This is one area where even corporations or communities are unable to invest long term resources to create capacity among the user community for negotiating appropriate terms of exchange under various functions described here. The reciprocity and mutual accountability in social innovations requires reliance on inclusive open innovation so that all the parties share and seek ideas without reservation or restrictions.
  1. aSource: Gupta, Anil K., 1987, Own compilation, adapted from http://anilg.sristi.org/banking-on-the-unbankable-poor/; Gupta Anil K., 1987, Being Bridges, Brokers or Benevolent Banias, CMA, IIM., Ahmedabad; Gupta Anil K., 1987, Banking in Backward Regions: Banks-NGO-Poor Interface -Alternatives for Action, IIM Working Paper No.675, in Indian Journal of Public Administration, Vol.XXXIII (3) Nos. 662–679, July–September 1987
\