Innovation for Social Impact: A catalytic programme

The Marico Innovation Foundation implements a programme designed for Social Organizations to adopt an Innovation route to significantly increase the impact of their work.

The need for Innovation in solving Social Challenges

New age Social Enterprises and more traditional non-profit civil society organizations form the formidable ‘third sector’ that complements the public and private sector in the country. Over the last couple of decades, social organizations have created impact in areas that the Government and the private sector have had a challenge working within. Health, education, employability, access to drinking water, better nutrition… all these are subjects where social organizations have applied government funds, market models and philanthropic money to demonstrate impact. Social Enterprises have an edge over the Government in terms of understanding the core issue within communities, being agile enough to learn quickly by failing fast and cracking innovative models that could go the last mile in efficient and low cost ways.

However, more often than not the initial success at prototype stages does not always lead to large-scale adoption and impact. Organizations tend to compromise innovation and do a trade-off between the larger challenge and the potential feasible impact possible through current resources. Limited resources, high costs of capacity building, poor infrastructure, limited working capital for operations are all reasons that good ideas seem to stop growing after a point.

At the same time issues of health, education, employability, women, farming are all becoming more critical to solve. This makes it imperative that social organizations adopt innovation principles to overcome the odds. Finding ways to take a leap into large scale impact.

Guiding Social Innovation – a catalytic programme

As one of its initiatives to catalyze the Innovation ecosystem in India, Marico Innovation Foundation has designed a 10 month program called Guiding Social Innovations. Facilitated by knowledge partner Innovation Alchemy this program is designed for Social Enterprises to apply Innovation to scale their impact, beyond organizational constraints. This is achieved through a hand-on methodology that helps a team engage with an innovation process over a 8-10 month period.

This programme was launched in 2012 and implemented in two broad phases:

  1. A series of open innovation workshops, designed for social organizations to explore and reflect on the need for innovation, learn tools and frameworks to apply in their own context
  2. Building on the workshop, selecting two social organizations/ projects for an in-depth acceleration facilitation programme that will handhold the team for an 8 month period with the objective of demonstrating new ideas, insights and prototypes for scale of impact

The open innovation workshops were conducted in August and October of 2010. The acceleration/ incubation programme was implemented between January and October 2011.

The core tenets of this in-depth programme design are:

  1. Building the core team’s capacity to use Innovation tools, frameworks and methodologies in solving issues and blocks of social impact. This programme consciously works with a core team inside the organization NOT just the primary leader
  2. Identify the core blocks to scale and find ways to create breakthroughs in those, enabling faster deeper impact
  3. Demonstrate the potential of the ideas – in a manner that the board, management and investors see the potential of supporting it further with time and funds

Both the teams Yuva Parivartan and Waste Wise Trust have been through 8 months of in-depth support and some early impact is starting become visible.

The incubation period defined the value of scale in our operation.  From our current operation of 5 tons per day, to 100 tons per day or 1000 t/p/d, we buoyed over the notion of scaling and how it happens, current impact vs potential impact and uniqueness of crafting a change.   The creative exercise which is the hallmark of every session with Innovation Alchemy helped us in transforming existing facility of waste management to learning center that attracts number of clients and visitors; Establish a network across the city to mobilize, train and take on logistical support from every actor involved; and establish a for profit company in its legal terms and make it distinct with social and  business impact indicators. Anslem Rosario, Ashoka Fellow and Founder Waste Wise Trust and Mythri Seva Samith (Parent organization)

The Innovation Incubation Process by Marico Innovation Foundation is a very good step to guide & handhold NGO’s like KSWA to take a big leap in an innovative manner. The inputs & insights on the YP model, and (the support) thereafter in dividing YP activities into three different clouds was a great learning; hence innovative lever for us to invent the CAMP as backward linkage to the  existing YP activity. Secondly, involving the energy of external experts in the overall YP innovation process helped us to find our way very easily. Dr. Vivekanand Sawant, Director, Yuva Parivartan Skills Development, KSWA

Read more details on how Yuva Parivartan has leveraged this support to build out their Camps Model, a big lever for future scale of the programme.

For more details on the Guiding Social Innovations programme please write to; and

Follow us on twitter for regular updates: @innovationIndia

Watch Videos from the series of Innovation Practitioner Workshops in 2011.


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  1. Cracking the employability paradox of Rural India: Yuva Parivartan «
  2. Innovation Perspectives from the 2012 Jury «

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