The potential for mobilisation through social innovation

Johanna Mair speaks about the German Education and Research Ministry’s “Society of Ideas” project. 

In an interview for the project “Gesellschaft der Ideen” (Society of Ideas), an idea competition launched by the German Ministry of Education and Research Germany on 6 May, Hertie School Professor of Organization, Strategy and Leadership Johanna Mair discussed how social innovation can contribute to finding solutions for big societal problems. Below is a transcript of the interview, which is available (in German) on 

What importance do science and research have for the development of social innovations?

Science and research play an important but underestimated role in the development of social innovation. Scientific findings on innovative organisational models can, for example, flow directly into the design phase of interventions or into the assessment of possible applications. Also in the implementation of social innovation, research helps to use the learning potential of small mistakes and to make changes at an early stage. In short, correctly applied, science and research can make social innovation processes more effective. 

What does social innovation need in order to be successful in the long term and to become established?

Social innovation alone is no guarantee of impact. Nor is every new idea an effective idea. In order to exploit the potential for impact, social innovation must be scaled. Such a scaling can take different forms and should ideally also be adopted or supported by the public sector and welfare organisations. 

How do you assess the rapid development of social innovation in the current crisis?

In crisis situations such as the coronavirus pandemic, social innovation is gaining attention. The success of the Wir vs. Virus (Us vs. the Virus) Hackathon, which is supported by the German government, shows the breadth of mobilisation possibilities. But it also shows how much unused solution potential still exists in the digital area. In the future we will continue to use digitalisation to generate ideas...but also to involve target groups affected by social problems directly in the development of innovation. 

More about Johanna Mair

  • Johanna Mair , Professor of Organization, Strategy and Leadership