Social Innovation Summit 2014: Business Innovation Meets Social Transformation

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I’ve written before about our work with social innovation brands, and attending the Social Innovation Summit in New York City gave me a tremendous perspective on its’ growing impact and influence.

Held twice annually, the Social Innovation Summit is, according to its website, “a global convening of black swans and wayward thinkers. Those who are playing at the nexus of technology, investment, philanthropy, international development, and business come together to investigate solutions and catalyze inspired partnerships that are disrupting history. … “We bring together those hungry not just to talk about the next big thing, but to build it.”

Held at the United Nations, the event was electric, featuring presentations from industry, technology and social leaders, such as Google, Microsoft, HP, Panera Bread, Charity: Water and celebrities like NFL receiver Victor Cruz and Jessica Alba, who founded The Honest Company, which sells affordable and eco-friendly personal care and household products.

What did I take away from the sold-out summit?

There are three key components to a breakthrough social innovation initiative: of course, innovation (a disruptive idea, or technology), branding (great storytelling) and metrics (audacious goals and the ability to measure impact).
Great storytelling is essential – “Speak to the heart to move the mind,” as one speaker put it. A brand narrative that incorporates video (often documentary or educational) and leverages social media (for a multiplier effect) is critical.

In all, there were four main areas of innovation that were summit focal points.

• Women, as in organizations that help women get ahead, such as Girls Who Code, which works to close the gender gap in technology and engineering

• Youth, including, an organization which aims to make “the world suck less” by pushing young people to initiate social change.

• Education, represented by programs such as Through its website, public school teachers can post classroom project requests and solicit donations. For a sampling of projects near our Newtown office, click here.

• Health, such as, which promotes HIV/AIDS prevention while trying to break down social and cultural barriers.

The summit reinforced my core beliefs about the importance of social innovation and the power of branding and storytelling to move minds and bring hope, and transformation, to millions. I was truly inspired by those who are out there making a difference — and the individuals who don’t allow the enormity of problems to stop them from putting their heart and soul behind an important cause.  Yes, one person does have the power to change the world.