When you think social innovation, you might think micro loans in developing countries, or hand-ups to help people in from the fringes here at home. Or a wide range of ways to build social capital or how charitable institutions backstop community with philanthropy. But for those of you who are working in the city planning trenches every day, using collaborative design workshops to engage the people, you’re really running a form of social innovation lab.
Roughly two hundred years ago, working in a little Bavarian workshop, Samuel Soemmering created a crude device that, refined by others, would revolutionize communications for the emerging industrial age: the telegraph.
A hundred years thereafter, post-Victorians began to ponder its evolution — wireless telegraphy — in which individuals would receive telegraph messages, printed out on ticker tape, via personal antenna.
And what was their take on such innovation? Did they savor the prospect of a new age of enlightenment, empowered by ever-improving access to information and to each other?