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Blended value reflects the fact that “value” incorporates social, environmental, and financial considerations. Social enterprises and impact investors (see definitions below) are concerned with blended value, which is often also referred to as the “triple bottom line.”

Catalytic Innovation is a new way of approaching social sector problems and creating scaleable, sustainable, system’s changing solutions. Similar to disruptive innovation (see below), catalytic innovations create simpler, “good-enough” alternatives for populations that are either overserved – the existing service is more complex than most people need – or not served at all. The nurse practitioner model is a good example of catalytic innovation.

Citizen engagement is broadly defined as individual and collective action to identify and address issues of public concern. For government, it refers more specifically to the involvement of citizens in government decision-making. While the term can be used to refer to a range of government-citizen interactions, including consultation and even information provision, true engagement is about involving citizens in planning, policy and program development, and resource allocation.

In a general sense, community benefit refers to the total benefit (social, environmental, and economic) to a community, including the families and individuals within it, of a particular activity. In a social innovation context, the term often focuses specifically on social and environmental benefits, as these two categories are less likely to be considered and/or measured (see also: social return on investment).

A Community Benefits Agreement is a contract between a developer and community groups that identifies the benefits the community will receive from the development (e.g., a living wage, local hiring and training programs, affordable housing, remediation and funds for community programs). CBAs ensure that development benefits all members of the community and contributes to stronger local economies, livable neighborhoods and increased public participation in the planning process.

A Community Contribution Company (C3) is a new (effective July 29, 2013), hybrid type of company that combines socially beneficial purposes with a restricted ability to distribute profits to shareholders. C3s are incorporated under legislation that caps dividends on company shares, ensuring profits are either retained by the company or directed to community benefit. (see also: Social Enterprise)

Community participation, in its broadest sense, refers to communities working together to address social challenges. In a government context, it means involving communities, families, and individuals in decision-making, planning and policy/program development (see also: citizen engagement).

A cooperative is an organization that is owned and democratically controlled by its members and pursues a stated purpose. That purpose can be related to the common interests of the cooperative’s members or a broader community benefit. Cooperatives are one of the oldest forms of social enterprise (see below).

Design thinking refers to the methods and processes for investigating poorly defined problems, acquiring information, analyzing knowledge, and developing solutions. Developed for business as a methodology for enhancing the look and functionality of products, design thinking is increasingly being used to tackle complex social problems.

Developmental evaluation is an approach to evaluation that supports innovation within a context of uncertainty. It is just as rigorous as other forms of evaluation, but it allows the data that is collected to be used to inform innovation in progress, rather than to simply create a baseline or to judge the success of a program or initiative. (

A disruptive innovation is an innovation that disrupts an existing market. In contrast to sustaining innovations (see below), disruptive innovations create a simpler, more convenient, and typically less expensive option that attracts new customers. A good example of disruptive innovation is Southwest Airlines’ low-cost, no fills flights, which attracted travellers who could not previously afford to fly. (see also: Catalytic Innovation)

Impact investing is investing in companies, organizations, and funds with the intent of generating a measurable social and environmental impact alongside a financial return. Impact investments can be made in both emerging and developed markets, target a range of returns from below market to market rate (depending upon the circumstances). For social enterprises (see below), impact investment can provide the capital that supports the scaling-up of small-scale social innovations (see below) that have demonstrated success in addressing a social problem.

Institutional entrepreneurs are individuals who actively seek to change the broader social system by changing political, economic, legal, or cultural institutions to provide greater support for social innovations.

Lab processes bring together a variety of stakeholders to develop a common understanding of a problem, from which they can design new, innovative solutions. Based on, in part, whole-system and design thinking, labs leverage a diversity of knowledge, experience and perspectives to find solutions to complex, intractable social problems. Examples include Change Labs, Design Labs, Solutions Labs, and Social Innovation Labs. (

Preventative Social Financing – see Social Impact Bond

Resilience is the capacity to withstand disruption without catastrophic failure. Resilient people, institutions and societies have the capacity for self-reliance and are creative in response to new challenges. The goal of social innovation can be to increase resilience (e.g., increasing community capacity by introducing a new program or service) or to reduce it (e.g., reduce the resilience of an existing system that needs to change).

The social economy is often referred to as “the third sector,” (the first and second being the private and public sectors). It includes a wide range of community activities, including cooperatives and other social enterprises, non-profit organizations, charities, and volunteerism.

Social enterprises are businesses driven by a social or environmental purpose. As with any business, a social enterprise delivers goods and/or services to customers in the marketplace. However, social enterprises differ from most traditional businesses in that their profits are not just used to ensure financial viability, but are re-invested in the business and/or the community to achieve, sustain and further the organization’s social or environmental purpose. (

Social entrepreneurs are individuals who use entrepreneurial principles to initiate or create innovative programs, products, or processes and to build an organization that can bring the innovation to market. Just as a business entrepreneur might create an entirely new industry, a social entrepreneur finds new solutions to social problems and then implements them on a large scale.

Social finance is an approach to managing money that delivers a social dividend and an economic return. Examples include community investing, microlending, social impact bonds (see below), and sustainable business and social enterprise (see above) lending. Social finance sits halfway between a charitable donation and a loan, enabling business owners with a social mission to create impact at a scale greater than can be achieved through traditional philanthropic support or government contributions.

A social impact bond (also known as preventative social financing) is a type of outcome-based contract. Through a social impact bond, private investment is used to pay for interventions, which are delivered through service providers with a proven track record. The investors receive a financial return from government if and only if the intervention is successful. The UK is piloting the world’s first social impact bond:

Social innovation is a new idea that resolves an existing social, cultural, economic and environmental challenge. It is not policy or program improvement; true social innovations are systems-changing. They permanently alter the perceptions, behaviours and structures that previously gave rise to the challenge. It is not a new concept, but in recent years it has become more focused and structured – a deliberate process for finding, developing, implementing and scaling new ideas.

Social purchasing or social procurement is a process through which organizations consider not only value for money, but also environmental, social, and ethical impacts when purchasing goods and services.

Social return on investment (SROI) is a measurement approach, developed from traditional cost-benefit analysis, in which the social and environmental impacts of an investment are assigned a financial value. SROI allows organizations to develop a fuller picture of the costs and benefits of investing in specific programs and services.

Sustaining innovation is the most common type of innovation. A sustaining innovation offers more functionality or better quality to the most demanding consumers of a product or service. It can be either an incremental improvement (e.g., a new smartphone model) or a significant breakthrough (e.g., the first smartphone).

Systems thinking is the process of understanding how things, regarded as systems, influence one another within a whole. As an approach to problem solving, it means viewing "problems" as parts of an overall system, rather than reacting to specific part, outcome or event. It is based on the belief that the component parts of a problem can best be understood in the context of their relationships with each other and with other problems, rather than in isolation.

Volunteerism, one of the oldest forms of social innovation, is the policy or practice of volunteering one's time or talents for charitable, educational, or other worthwhile activities, especially in one's community.