Ziba, Participle and Social Innovation

I was thoroughly inspired by the presentation today at Ziba by Jennie Winhall, senior strategist at the social innovation organization in the UK, Participle. It blew me away; here was a multi-discplinary project, using design process and prototyping methods, in the service of social innovation. The projects Jennie showcased exemplified the elegance and efficiency of what can happen when research joins up with entrepreneurial application and governmental agencies. It did make me wonder how such an enterprise would work in a States-context, where there seems to be more focus on the bottom line and surprisingly less open-mindedness to innovation in research. It leads me to reflect on why I chose to do my research training in the UK and work with pioneers in psychosocial studies, colleagues actively exploring deeper dimensions and implications of social and environmental issues we face, and willing to explore new forms of investigating what may impede or complicate our capacities to respond more constructively than we may be doing. Still, I remain optimistic for now, there are openings for applied research here, and in collaboration with other smart, creative, innovative folks willing to take risks. My visit to Ziba today – as well as a meeting at the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability at the City of Portland with Susan Anderson and Michael Armstrong – certainly inspired me to be hopeful!

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