Hivos International

About Social Innovation

Failing political leadership, dysfunctional political-economic systems and glaring social contradictions are not new phenomena. It is their persistence and increasing global interconnectedness, however, that requires a new approach. Old solutions no longer suffice. So Hivos feels that now more than ever is the time to find and scale innovative solutions to achieve social change. To us, social innovation is a means to an end, or better yet, a way to contribute to a free, fair and sustainable world.

We have always sided with forces in society that question the status quo and work on alternatives to promote freedom, dignity and sustainability. For us, social innovation is about connecting this 'civic intent' across all domains and sectors of society. Although our work is mostly rooted in civil society, more and more we see our programmes reaching far beyond. With social innovation, we want to take them to a next level by working more collaboratively and systemically.

What does this mean in practice? It means working with a broader range of stakeholders in the development sector, in a greater variety of roles and where possible, across old divides (e.g. state versus civil society). It means having a user-centered approach and co-creating solutions with the people we want to reach. Social innovation is open to experimenting; it links prototyping solutions to constant learning and scaling up wherever our idea bears fruit.

An example of how we innovate for social change is the Hivos / Greenpeace programme ‘All Eyes on the Amazon’. The programme combines modern technologies, such as satellites, drones and tablets, with the centuries-old knowledge of the Indigenous inhabitants of the Amazon to campaign against deforestation in Brazil, Ecuador and Peru. All Eyes on the Amazon supports local communities in forming teams of forest rangers who can employ these instruments effectively. The teams learn how to make land maps, analyse images from satellites and drones, read GPS-coordinates and store the information they collect safely. This offers unprecedented possibilities to record human rights violations and the destruction of the rainforest.