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McKinsey on Society


Voices Social innovation

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Why social innovators need design thinking

Tim Brown
November 2011

We have well-developed tools for tackling social issues based on thoughtful analysis and technological inventiveness, but there has been something missing from the toolbox.

Simple solutions that save lives

Armida Fernandez
Society for Nutrition Education and Health Action
November 2011

There’s no doubt that groundbreaking inventions and discoveries have moved the world forward, but sometimes, a small innovation can be just as powerful.

New ways to fund social innovation

Serge Raicher
European Venture Philanthropy Association
November 2011

Venture philanthropy can look hideously complex. It may involve private investors, governments, nongovernmental organizations, and community groups—not to mention the recipients of the funding. And each of these groups has a different way of measuring success.

Organization: The next big innovation

Jamie Cooper-Hohn
The Children's Investment Fund Foundation
November 2011

Addressing major social problems, especially in an era of limited resources, is both daunting and enthralling. Our responses to tackling such problems, however, often serve to undermine the development sector’s impact.

Calling the next billion…

Nathan Eagle
December 2011

What did it take to fix the problem of fluctuating blood supplies in rural Kenya?

The Northern Rangelands Trust: A new model for development

Ian Craig
The Northern Rangelands Trust
November 2011

Finding a way to conserve natural resources, biodiversity, and habitats is a universal challenge across the planet. So too is the need to nurture sustainable economic development to improve the lives of the Earth’s poorest rural populations.

Design meets development in Rwanda

Conor French
Indego Africa
Nicole Miller
Indego Africa
Benjamin Stone
Indego Africa
November 2011

Our goal at the nonprofit social enterprise Indego Africa is to put ourselves out of business, literally. We’ve joined forces with noted fashion designer Nicole Miller because we believe she can help us do exactly that.

Scuba rice: Building a better food from past innovations

Judith Rodin
Rockefeller Foundation
November 2011

Historically, some of the most effective and important technological developments and products—from electric lighting to the graphical user interface of the Windows operating system—have been pieced together in just this way, from pre-existing inventions.

Innovating for a better city

Michael Bloomberg
Mayor, New York City
December 2011

In New York City government—much like at Bloomberg LP—three key approaches have helped us get around challenges to drive innovation forward.

VideoContest: Calling All Social Innovators

Denielle Sachs
McKinsey & Company
Ryan Adams
McKinsey & Company
December 2011

We attracted close to 150 videos from 30 countries. The entries address nearly every societal challenge, in every corner of need, from an organization in India that’s converting sewage to energy to Project Pressure, a UK organization that’s documenting climate change by creating a photographic archive of the world’s receding glaciers.

Dare to be orthogonal

Gary White
Matt Damon
December 2011 tries to apply the best thinking from the private sector, the public sector, the financial markets—wherever breakthrough ideas exist—to the problem of providing safe, sustainable water in developing counties.

Incubating innovation in social enterprises

Marla Capozzi
McKinsey & Company
Lynn Taliento
McKinsey & Company
December 2011

Skunk Works. Innovation Lab. Incubator. New Ventures Group. These are just some of the names companies have used over the years when they set up teams to generate new ideas or incubate new businesses outside the shackles of the day-to-day demands. When these efforts work, the results can be spectacular.

Telling the world’s stories to promote change

Wendy Hanamura
Link Media
December 2011

Link TV decided to come up with new ways to discover, tell, and share stories of progress from developing countries.

A new model for philanthropy

Blake Mycoskie
December 2011

I never meant to get into the shoe business, and would have said you were crazy if you told me five years ago that’s what I’d be doing today. The idea to start TOMS came during a trip to Argentina back in 2006.

The power of yellow

Doug Ulman
November 2011

Lance Armstrong, perhaps the most famous cancer survivor on earth, was training for his record sixth consecutive Tour de France victory. It was the early spring of 2004 and Armstrong wanted to use this triumph to raise funds to serve fellow cancer survivors.

Tapping corporate expertise to improve lives

Joe Cerrell
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
December 2011

Many companies that have expanded in Africa have brought with them a commitment to support the communities in which they’re now working.

(RED): Reimagining a cure for AIDS

Deborah Dugan
November 2011

While many people subscribe to Milton Friedman’s belief that “the social responsibility of a business is to increase its profits,” (RED) was founded on the idea that corporate profitability carries with it a social duty.

Social Innovation: A matter of scale

Steve Davis
November 2011

What do we mean by social innovation—and does it really matter? Is it simply the rebranding of things we’ve been doing forever? And most important, will it last longer than last year’s hemlines? Will it matter to my grandchildren someday?

A network for global development

Raj Kumar
December 2011

Each year, $200 billion is spent to improve lives in the developing world. This funding spawns a vast global industry that includes experts in specialized fields like immunology and sanitation, local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), universities, global corporations, suppliers of essential equipment and services like microgrids and logistics, and, in all, over a million professionals of all stripes around the world.

Primetime in Afghanistan

An interview with Tom Freston
Thomas E. Freston
ONE Campaign
Lynn Taliento
McKinsey & Company
December 2011

Thomas E. Freston is chairman of the ONE Campaign, an advocacy organization founded by U2 lead singer Bono.

Harnessing big data to address the world’s problems

Jonathan Bays
McKinsey & Company
Steve Davis
November 2011

Around the world, social innovators are starting to use “big data”—datasets whose size is beyond the ability of typical software programs to capture, manage, and analyze—to address critical problems.

Big data, small wars, local insights

Designing for development with conflict-affected communities
David Kilcullen
Caerus Associates
Alexa Courtney
Caerus Associates
December 2011

Many of the traditional approaches to development simply will not work in conflict-ridden zones.

Harnessing technology for transformation

Matt Bannick
Omidyar Network
December 2011

With a 9 percent annual growth rate, India is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. But corruption remains a serious problem; in 2010, Transparency International ranked the country 87th out of 178 countries in its annual corruption perception index.

Government Innovation: Helping Citizens….cut through the red tape

Eric Braverman
McKinsey & Company
December 2011

For the last six months, some colleagues and I have been traveling the world asking questions about government innovation. Does it exist? Does it make a difference? We’ve met with government leaders and their customers—everyday citizens, businesses, and civil-society organizations—in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. And what we’ve found is surprising.

Mobile money: A game changer for financial inclusion

Wolfgang Fengler
World Bank
Michael Joseph
World Bank
World Bank
November 2011

Analysts predict that by 2012, there will be over 6 billion mobile phone connections worldwide, with developing markets driving the growth; by 2015, Africa alone will have 265 million mobile phone subscribers.1 The mobile phone started as a tool for the elite.

An Interview With Eth(n)ik’s Petterson Molina Vale

Ryan Adams
McKinsey & Company
Petterson Molina Vale
December 2011

People who study development and who work in the development business are realizing more and more that you actually have to build development from the ground up, working with and including the individuals who you are trying to help. This is a very hard process that has harsh realities. You have to really understand the specific problems.

Sesame Workshop: Empowering children through media

Melvin Ming
Sesame Workshop
December 2011

While most people know of us for our work on literacy and numeracy, Sesame Workshop tackles topics affecting the whole child—a wide array of issues that families across America and around the world face. Recently, we entered a new area: childhood hunger.

Voices on Society topics

  • Entrepreneurship Without Boundaries

    Entrepreneurs are solving complex societal challenges across the globe. It’s happening “at the table” within established organizations, “off the grid” on difficult terrain, and “on the web” in the digital world. Across this spectrum, we often find Millennial entrepreneurs leading the charge.

  • How We Give

    Distinguished experts and donors share new insights on global giving trends and propose solutions to barriers that inhibit individual philanthropy aimed at improving social outcomes.

  • The Art and Science of Delivery

    Delivery is both an art and a science. We think the art is in the innovation and adaptability of the actors and different delivery models, while the science lies in replicating and scaling those models.

  • The Socially Conscious Consumer

    How the global rise of socially conscious consumers can help drive environmental and economic sustainability.

  • Financing Social Change

    Across the globe, innovative new tools are helping fund social change.

  • Beyond advocacy – business needs to get its head in the gameJobs for the young & restless

    Youth around the world have been particularly hard hit, registering disturbingly high unemployment numbers.

  • Social innovation

    Can fresh thinking solve the world’s most intractable problems?

  • Social entrepreneurs

    Can social entrepreneurs create large scale change?

  • Cities

    As the global population becomes increasingly urbanized, what will the cities of the future look like?

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