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I have been an elementary and secondary school teacher and administrator. Currently, I am a faculty member in the Faculty of Education at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. My M.Ed. and Ph.D. had a focus on the educational and linguistic experiences of children who moved from other countries to Canada.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Social Innovation in Haiti: Key Themes

This past winter, I hosted a panel entitled "Security in a Fragile State: What Can We Learn Through Social Innovation in Haiti?" The panel ended up turning into a "Tweet-a-thon" due to a snow storm that closed the university. We used the #LaurierHaitiSI hashtag to stimulate conversations and track responses. The result was an amazing opportunity to engage a much broader audience than would have come to the university.

It has taken some time but here are the key themes and comments that came up that evening.As you will tell by reading through the comments, the insights were rich and thought-provoking!

Definition/conceptualization of “social innovation”
-Positive social change
-Communities joining together to develop and advance new ideas and technologies to solve social problems
-Empowerment through positive, people centered change
-Importance of support network in affecting social change – difficult for change to unilaterally happen
-Social innovation is key to developing complex solutions for complex problems
Examples of social innovation
-Community response immediately after the earthquake in Haiti – people and communities came together to help rebuild
-Women played a critical role in that recovery, transcending traditional gender roles and becoming primary breadwinners – social innovation is then the risk-taking to transcend these roles that society creates for us
-Providing school supplies and basic needs for refugee students
-Providing supports and resources to support social capital in rural Haiti
-When it is about necessity and survival, rules will be broken – survival is the focus
Importance of considering social innovation in Haiti and other fragile contexts
-Again about survival and need – incremental steps and organic developments will arise from need
-Where people lack the infrastructure and resources, it is likely that individuals will emerge to create alternative and new systems to fill that need
-In order to learn and collaborate and create social connections
-It provides a new approach and new solutions
-“I think social innovation is the reason why Haiti still exists as a nation”
-Bringing the world into the classroom – modeling those social connections
-Can’t “offload” solutions to policymakers and governments who aren’t in tune with these systematic/complex issues. Social innovation is about designing new solutions to these problems with those who are affected by them
-The traditional means and conduct are inadequate - Private-Public Partnerships (PPPs) are not efficient if they exist
Ingredients that support SI in Haiti
-Having a “why”, which becomes the driving force to move in a particular direction for social innovation
-Resilience and risk-taking is involved and there is a lot of uncertainty
-Provide training and open discussion around sustainable solutions
-As teachers, it is our duty to promote social innovation
Connections between SI and security
-SI can be threatening to some
-When we talk about security, we need to ask, “For whom?” Ex: Social movements are threatening to individuals who want to maintain the status quo. Who benefits from maintaining the status quo or not pursuing SI? Someone is benefitting from inaction
-Security at times gets in the way of SI – fear is an enemy for many who would like to be involved
-Social innovation must be developed in sustainable ways if it is to provide security for the oppressed to be liberated – SI can be scary to people in power.
-SI takes the action from the hands of the government and put in the hand of the people who can act on it – the challenge becomes guidance – it takes some structure and infrastructure to get SI going
How Laurier community can learn about/support social innovation in Haiti
-Stories and images of Haiti are usually presented through a deficit lens – there is value and importance in getting to know the deeper story
-Haiti’s story requires digging deeper than the pictures and stories being shared in the media

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