How do you engage with the immune system of an organization that fights innovation?

We are excited to share the entire recording and additional resources based on this event with social innovation expert and practitioner Ra Goel.

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  • 00:00 Introduction
  • 03:16 Social Innovation versus Service Design?
  • 07:16 What Makes Social Innovation Unique?
  • 10:11 How to Introduce Innovation in Big Organizations?
  • 12:36 Why Asking 'Why' is Crucial in Social Innovation
  • 14:13 The Role of Education and Foresight in Innovation
  • 15:17 Why you should stop to try convince stakeholders?
  • 18:29 The Power of Quick Wins and Real-World Examples
  • 21:01 How to Navigate the 'Immune System' of Organizations
  • 30:13 The big questions you should ask at the start of a social innovation project
  • 33:26 How can bottom up social innovation be successful in the public space?
  • 39:05 Tactics for Gaining Buy-In on Projects
  • 43:31 Where to Begin Your Journey in Social Innovation?
  • 47:18 Closing words


Social Innovation versus Service Design?

  • Social innovation involves identifying and developing new products, services, and approaches to tackle social problems and meet societal needs.
  • Social innovation aims to create positive social impact across one or more of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.
  • The process and approach in social innovation are similar to those in service design.

What Makes Social Innovation Unique?

  • A key difference lies in how outcomes and effectiveness are measured: service designers might focus on engagement, usage, experience, brand, or retention while social impact designers focus on the actual impact on the problem they're trying to solve.
  • In social innovation, there is always a goal related to the social issue that needs to be addressed.
  • There's a trend in social entrepreneurship where organizations aim to develop products and services that are socially minded and also commercially viable.

How to Introduce Innovation in Big Organizations?

  • The challenge is to introduce innovation and the concept of working for both profit and purpose in large organizations.
  • The majority of the work involves helping not-for-profits identify new ways to have impact and grow their impact in a commercially viable and sustainable way.
  • While the theory of this approach is appealing, the practical implications can be daunting, such as the cost, the time required, and how different it is from business as usual.

Why Asking 'Why' is Crucial in Social Innovation

  • Ra Goel emphasizes the importance of asking "why" when initiating and driving projects in an organization.
  • Differing answers from various stakeholders are expected, but finding commonality is crucial for alignment with strategic objectives and long-term strategy.
  • Once an initiative becomes part of the organizational DNA, indicating a clear need or 'burning platform', commitment and buy-in are easier to achieve.

The Role of Education and Foresight in Innovation

  • Ra Goel emphasizes the need for education in organizations new to the process.
  • He outlines the necessity of understanding the journey's timeline, key stages, expected tasks, costs, and potential outcomes.
  • The goal is to equip stakeholders with enough knowledge to make confident, informed decisions at the right time, increasing the chances of success for the idea and the organization's objectives.

Why should you stop to try to convince stakeholders?

  • Suggested that those who feel unprepared or uncommitted should focus on laying the groundwork rather than rushing into action.
  • Highlighted the importance of learning from the market and from successful case studies.
  • Discussed the strategy of acknowledging people's fears and hesitations rather than trying to convince them to proceed.

The Power of Quick Wins and Real-World Examples

  • Ra Goel discussed a scenario where initiating a small successful project sparked interest in change and innovation.
  • He emphasized the importance of tangible results to help stakeholders visualize potential benefits and start meaningful conversations.
  • He pointed out that having an innovation strategy in place is crucial for new ideas to find their place and purpose within an organization.

How to Navigate the 'Immune System' of Organizations

  • Daniele and Ra Goel discussed how organizations often resist change, similar to an immune system reacting to an infection.
  • They believe this resistance isn't negative, but a natural part of the implementation process.
  • The resistance is compared to a "fever", indicating the organization is adapting and growing.
  • They suggest creating a "vaccine", or introducing small doses of change to stimulate adaptation.
  • Ra Goel emphasized the importance of learning from mistakes, even if it means letting the client stumble.

The big questions you should ask at the start of a social innovation project

  • Unlike commercial innovation, social innovation often doesn't have a clear paying customer.
  • A key question is who will provide sustainable funding for the product or service.
  • The need for financial modeling is emphasized, to determine who will pay, how much, how often, and whether it will be enough.

How can bottom up social innovation be successful in the public space?

  • Marta asked about the success of bottom-up social innovation in public spaces, considering politics and budgets as roadblocks.
  • Ra Goel discussed the promising activity happening in social spaces, particularly within communities. He cited the example of Claren Housing's William Sutton Prize, which enables low-income communities to bid for funding to support the development of their ideas.
  • Ra emphasized that large organizations can play a crucial role in supporting social innovation, not only through budgets, but also by providing expertise, networks, and knowledge.
  • Daniele mentioned the Salvation Army as an example of an organization that has historically addressed social services that others could not, due to politics, money, or image. These initiatives often lead to changes in perception and, eventually, support from politics.

Tactics for Gaining Buy-In on Projects

  • Use precedent and case studies from similar organizations to build confidence and buy-in.
  • Connect stakeholders to individuals from other organizations who have successfully implemented similar projects.
  • Quick wins are important to demonstrate capability and potential success.
  • Field trips or "safaris" to see innovative services in action can generate enthusiasm and understanding.
  • Engage stakeholders in user interviews to help them see the problem from the user perspective.
  • Leverage proven processes from reputable organizations (like Google's Design Sprint) to lend credibility to the approach.

Where to Begin Your Journey in Social Innovation?

  • Ra Goel advises to find a theme you're passionate about, such as health and well-being, and delve deep into that area.
  • Ra recommends looking at organizations like Good Innovation, Nesta, and Brink for those interested in social innovation. And looking at Zinc VC for those interested in social entrepreneurship, SEND (Social Entrepreneurship Networks Deutschland) and Impact Hub.
  • Ra suggests looking at your current work environment for potential social innovation opportunities. Check if your company or project has a sustainability strategy and see if your work can help deliver those objectives.

This summary was made by using the automated transcript (created with Descript) and passing it through The host has reviewed, adapted and shortened the summary for accuracy.

Ra Goel
Ra Goel - Founder at Neu Impact Innovation

​Ra Goel is an expert in Social Innovation and Service Design practitioner from London working in Switzerland, Germany and the United Kingdom. ​Through his practice, Ra has helped leading national and international NGOs, including Oxfam and WaterAid, UK Government departments, social housing organisations, and a range of commercial businesses and start-up ventures to develop and launch ideas that tackle some of society’s most urgent challenges.

Automated transcript



Daniele: In this event of the Swiss Service Design Network we speak about social innovation and Service Design with Ra Goel.

Ra is an expert in social innovation and a Service Design practitioner from London, working in Switzerland, Germany and the United Kingdom. 

Through his practice Ra has helped leading national and international NGOs, including Oxfam and WaterAid UK government departments, social housing organizations, and a range of commercial business, and startup ventures to develop and launch ideas that tackle some of societies most urgent challenges. 

During this interview and community Q&A, we will explore topics like: 

What's the difference between social innovation and Service Design.

How can someone get started in social innovation? 

How do you pitch social innovation projects? 

How do you bring innovation in big nonprofit organizations? 

How to deal with the immune system of a large organization that fights innovative ideas?

What are some hard learned lessons from a seasoned social innovator that Service Design practitioners can steal to have more impact? 

Big thank you to Ra for taking time to share all his knowledge with the community.

Welcome to the stage, Ra! 

Ra Goel: Thank you so much, Daniele. Nice to be here. 

Daniele: It's such a pleasure, to see you again. As a few people might know, we we did some fancy projects together in London where we worked together in good innovation.

But from all the fancy and lovely stuff that I just said about you, what's maybe one thing that is missing from that little profile of yours? 

Ra Goel: Maybe not so much missing, but slightly incorrect that. I would have classed myself as a service designer or not so much as a traditional service designer, which then begs me to ask, why am I here speaking to you guys?

My background is not in service design. My background actually started in various forms of marketing, strategic marketing and through, various roles within the private sector, the public sector, working in government. On large social marketing and behavior change initiatives, I ended up in the world of social innovation.

And I guess where the crossover is through my time working on large social innovation projects. I've learnt a number of skills essentially, which I guess would then put me in the bucket of being a service designer, so to speak.

Daniele: Yeah, I think there is something here, which is super interesting, which is, this notion of service designer versus service design practitioner, this always is a thing that, that I see coming. And my mate, mark Fontain always says we should remove the term service designer and rather use the term service design professional or practitioner because.

There is not one type of service designer, and there is not one type of, you can be something completely else as a job, but still use those practices, and I feel that kind of being on the Practitioner side is very much interesting. Plus you bring so much, it shows also that we mix all of our history in in all of that.

But let's get directly, because I know you are someone who is really good at, being very direct and going extremely clearly in the topic. And so I will do that with you, obviously today too which My first question for you is the following. 

Social Innovation versus Service Design?


Daniele: When someone is seeing okay, there's social innovation, there is a service design thing, what's the difference?

Is there any difference at all? And maybe are there commonalities? 

Ra Goel: Yeah. So maybe the first question to ask for those that aren't so familiar with the world of social innovation is, what is social innovation? And my, my description in a nutshell is essentially it's identifying and developing new product services and approaches to tackle social problems and meet societal needs.

And I guess when you think about the kind of social aspect so what are those problems? What are those societal needs? A good place to start or a good framework to look at are the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. There's 16 of them. They range from things like. Poverty, climate, gender equality, health and well being.

As well as inequalities, education, et cetera, et cetera. And I guess social innovation is all about trying to create positive social impact across one or more of those various sustainability goals. Do not necessarily relate to maybe more of the advanced and developed economies.

Therefore, if you take the UK, for example, Germany, there are some very specific social challenges which social innovation. It's just trying to address, and they could include things like affordable housing, which is a big issue, certainly in the UK and Germany income inequalities and the growth of that, the impact of income inequalities on things like health and being as well as, say, mental health amongst children and young people.

In certain economies like, again, the UK Germany and across Europe, in fact, you have an aging population. So what does that mean in terms of their quality of life and the things that they're going to need as they start to to age? So there's a whole series of different social challenges facing different types of economies and and markets, which through various processes, and this is where I think there are similarities with service design and social innovation New solutions can be developed.

So I guess when it comes down to that question around what's the crossover? Where are the similarities? I'd say that the process and the approach that a service designer like yourselves would take to trying to develop solutions is very similar to the process and approach that we would take within social innovation.

And there's kind of five broad factors that you'll be looking at. The first one being, having a insight led, human centred approach, so really understanding your audience and understanding their world and their behaviours and their emotions and their needs, essentially, in order to, and this is point number two, identify a problem that, that needs to be solved, that has value in being solved.

And that problem could be, um, very focused in terms of let's say for example I worked on a project with a charity called Births to Arthritis, and as the population ages, more and more of us will suffer from musculoskeletal issues. And as you do develop those issues in terms of joint pain, the things that you take for granted, like moving around, getting out of bed, Using kitchen utensils becomes very difficult.

One of the problems that needs to be solved is around finding new products, essentially. Household products that help people to be able to do simple tasks in a way that meets their physical needs, but also their emotional needs, because at the moment, And a lot of those products in the market tend to be designed for hospitals and people don't want to have things designed for hospitals in their households.

So it's about identifying problems that are very solvable, both on an individual level, but also they could be on a systemic level as well. So if you are working, for example, within governments or within kind of larger organizations that are very networked and require multiple stakeholders as part of the solution, then it's about thinking about the problem at a much kind of broader level.

Some of the other, similarities in terms of the approach also include things like iterative development, real world testing being agile, failing fast. How can you get something quick, out there, into the market, getting real life data, getting feedback, iterating it, pivoting if you need to, and also killing it if 

Daniele: work.

What Makes Social Innovation Unique?


Ra Goel: On the flip side, where are the differences? And I guess it does depend on what level you're operating. If it's a systemic level or it's a kind of individual or a product based level. I think where there are product based solutions, the similarities are probably more so than the differences.

But I guess one of the kind of key differences is how you measure outcomes, how you measure effectiveness of solutions. Solutions where a service designer might be very focused around things like engagement or usage or experience or brand or retention, things like those. Those are really important within the social impact world, but they tend to be a means to an end.

What we're really focused on is the actual impact that it has on the end problem that we're trying to solve, which can be. Quite challenging in terms of actually identifying what that change that you want to see is, as well as actually how you go about monitoring and 

Daniele: evaluating it. So from what I hear, it's like a lot of the tools, the mindset, the philosophies are the same, but form, it's like the end goal is not the same, where in service design, we might serve a commercial purpose.

And that might just be the end of it. And in social innovation, we always have like a goal. which is about the social, associative issue that we want to tackle. Did I get that right? I 

Ra Goel: think so. And I think just to that point about the commercial goals, it depends what lens you're looking at this through.

So if you're coming at it from a governmental point of view, so you're working for a big military or government department or a private business, then sorry, or a large charity, then your focus is most likely going to be. social impact. So your goal is to see positive social change. But at the same time, there is also crossover in that the work that I've been doing for the last seven or eight years is trying to identify opportunities where actually the goals that you're aspiring to are both commercial as well as social because the two are not mutually exclusive.

And actually we operate in a world, certainly in some markets, certainly in the UK, for example, where the state. It doesn't support people fully. Of course it can't because of resource constraints. Charities and not for profits support only a subset of the people that they'd like to. Again, because of resource constraints, there's this missing middle whereby people require support and services, particularly around things like, say, health and being or education even kind of diet that they're willing to pay for.

Therefore, there is a real There's a real trend and there's a real development in terms of social entrepreneurship, essentially, which is startups or organizations wanting to develop new products and services that are socially minded, that are impact led, but are also commercially minded too, in that it's about profit and purpose.

And, essentially, they don't see the two as being mutually exclusive. In fact, see them as very beneficial to one another. 

How to Introduce Innovation in Big Organizations?


Daniele: So I see two challenges that I know you've been faced with, but they are very interesting to me, which is, so you're working, with a few very big organizations and we all know that the bigger the organization, the the more the word innovation and what comes with it can be a bit scary for such organization, and that there is like a reaction to no we can't do this not here and all of that stuff and You then add another level to it, which is, oh, but we're going to do it also with business.

And so how do you bring in these two challenges? So you're challenging big organization in two ways. You're saying, let's be innovative, iterative. Let's go on that kind of way. Plus, we're going to do it both for profit and for purpose. So how do you pitch that within a big organization? Because they might have a bit of legacy thinking.

And how do you help them move towards these? New ways of thinking. 

Ra Goel: That's a great question, Daniele, and it's the bane of my life, frankly. Within each of those organizations, each of the clients, you tend to have key individuals and there might be the innovation director or the income director, and they're agitators and they really want to create change but then they are faced with the bureaucracy around them and trying to facilitate, catalyze, and drive that change through is very challenging.

And through years of trying to do this, sometimes successfully, very often unsuccessfully I've learnt we've learnt some key lessons in terms of, what works and what doesn't work. And I think when it comes to large organisations Primarily, the majority of my work has been with not for profits over the last few years and helping them to identify new opportunities and new ways to have impact and grow their impact either in existing or in new spaces, but doing it in a way that's commercially viable and sustainable such that they're not relying on other forms of revenue or income to actually fund the work.

And when you talk about it in theory, it's all kind of very exciting. And people quite bright, shiny things and get attracted to it. But suddenly when the work starts and they realize the implications in terms of actually how challenging it is, how different it is, how against business as usual it is, how much it's going to cost, how long it's going to take, suddenly People do get very worried, people do get very scared, and actually that can be a real reason why people just shut things down and go, that was really interesting, we're going to put that on the shelf, and unfortunately it just gathers dust and stays there.

Why Asking 'Why' is Crucial in Social Innovation


Ra Goel: One of the key lessons that I always have, even today, when I go into one of these projects and think about, number one, how do I initially pitch it, but number two, when there's ideas on the table, how do you help to drive those through, is to ask the question, why? Why are you doing this as an organization and why are you doing it now?

And it seems like quite an easy fundamental question but actually getting to the right answer can be quite challenging because you ask the question to, five or ten different key stakeholders at different levels and you'll get five or ten different answers which is fine because then it's about trying to find the commonality and trying to then align it with strategic objectives and long term Long term strategy.

So ask that question why and having a kind of coherent narrative that makes sense both of the apps, but it's not just about asking the question why and getting to the right answer. There's a buy in to that answer and I'd probably say that buy in bit is as important as just finding the answer itself.

Once you have the buy in, Then you get the commitment, but without the buy in, people will be like, yeah, this is a really important thing to do. Yes, it might help us to achieve our X, Y, Z goal, but it's not until it becomes part of the organizational DNA. It's like we need to do this because we have a burning platform.

We need to do this because it's important in this way. And we are going to do this and we are going to commit to do this because of X, Y, Z reason. Until you get that level of commitment and buy in. Then it's very difficult because you're constantly having conversations to justify the why. You're constantly having to go back and explain the importance of the new picture.

The Role of Education and Foresight in Innovation


Ra Goel: I'd also just add to that, in terms of the why, there's also, I think, an educational piece for a lot of organisations that haven't done this before. And, it's with no blame, the fact that people are scared by this and don't know, they don't know what they don't know. But there's a journey that you also need to take them on.

So it's not just about acknowledging, identifying, and defining why are we doing this. It's also about helping them to have some foresight. Okay, what happens? What does the journey look like? How long is it going to take? What are the key stages? What am I going to expect to do at these stage?

How much is it going to cost at each stage? And what might happen if, things fail, or if we get different results? And That, that's really important to be able to take the different key stakeholders on that journey at different stages such that essentially they know what to expect and such that they feel confident enough to be able to make the right decisions at the right time in the right way to ensure that there's the greatest chance of success for both the idea that you're trying to sell as well as the objective that the organization is trying to work towards.

Why you should stop to try convince stakeholders?


Daniele: And so Let's play a little role play session, which is, I'm the guy from the Birkberg organization and I say, sure, sounds interesting, all of it, don't have the time, we don't have the resources, but great idea, I would love to do that one day, maybe 2025. Maybe when there is new management, we could make that happen.

But for now, it's a bit hard. But we could do a workshop and that would be lovely. How would you react to that? 

Ra Goel: Let's talk again in a couple of years. It does depend on who is speaking. Seriously, we're entering the early stages and people have been doing it. It's I want to learn more. But actually, there's Belief that we're not ready, we don't have the resources, we're not committed, and I'll say don't do it yet.

Use the time to lay the foundation. Use the time to have the right conversations with the right people internally and externally. Learn from the market, learn from who's doing it really well, bringing that expertise and those case studies and precedents so that there's that education piece such that when you do have the resources or when there is that burning platform, But if there isn't that motivation, if there isn't that willingness and commitment at this stage, then don't rush into anything, because all you're going to be doing is spending time and money, getting to a place where it's oh, this is really great, but actually we can't go anywhere with it.

Daniele: I love how you frame that, because, it's a thing that I've learned over years too, which is, don't convince people. It's not our job to convince people to do something. Rather, it's our job to convince them not to do it. And strangely enough, when you reinforce, that people are scared, and you just say, you're scared, and you have good reasons to be scared, because this is not easy, and this will be difficult, and it's going to cost a lot.

Then basically what happens, you're motivating them to reveal all the good reasons of why they would like to do it. Because then they say no, I disagree with you. Yes, it's difficult, but, we did an experiment and it worked well and now it would be a shame to just stay there.

And so I find this is a buy in technique, which is very interesting, which is instead of trying to motivate people, just acknowledging the state where they are in and saying it out loud. You're very good at that. I think, this we come both from cultures where we say the same, we read the room and we say, Oh, you're pissed off.

You hate me. Then suddenly something happens where the person says, yeah, but I still like you for this and this. So I'd like to continue our conversation in that and that way, but please stop doing your jokes and say, okay, now we can have a very good relationship. And I feel it's like the same that you're doing here by saying, Daniele, I think it's not the time for you.

But, you could use that to prepare yourself and suddenly the conversation is very different. 

Ra Goel: Yeah, absolutely. I think you also touched upon a really important point around, this is hard, it's really hard, like it's really hard. And it's even harder, this is not to downplay the commercial world at all, because it's also hard there, but I guess within the social context, In a way, you're doing what you do in the commercial world, but also pushing even further because you're trying to also deliver social objectives in parallel with commercial objectives, which makes it even harder in some respects.

The Power of Quick Wins and Real-World Examples


Ra Goel: The other thing I would say, whether it's in this kind of roleplay context or otherwise, sometimes it does just take a quick win to be able to create the foundations or the conditions. How do we get people to be interested in change, or to at least catalyze that change? Say for example, I had a situation where a client came, they had an idea for a new social venture.

We did a whole piece of work, actually we pivoted because it wasn't right, and actually came out of the end of it, where there was a really good, strong proposition that had, We did some traction in the market we did some prototyping we got to a certain stage, it's actually there's something really interesting here.

It didn't go anywhere because we hadn't laid the foundations. However, what it did do is that it enabled the bigger conversation to be opened up, which I think is equally as important. Because sometimes, To have that bigger conversation about, okay, we need to do something different, we need to innovate in a different way in order to either increase our impact and or bring in kind of new sources of income.

When it's done too theoretically, it's too nebulous, people can't grasp it, they don't get it, but when they have something tangible in front of them, that they can either say yay or nay to, it enables them to to have a more More open, more, more, just because it's about something, at least they're starting the conversation, at least they can start to visualize the picture.

What does this mean? What does this look like? And thereby, by doing so, you can have that broader conversation about, okay, what is our strategy? If we don't have an innovation strategy or social innovation strategy, what is one? What do we need to do to actually go away and develop in order for these ideas to, have a place and have purpose within the organization?

Thank you.

Daniele: I love that it's like the toy and horse technique where you're basically saying what's the fancy thing that you'd like to be solved? And then people say this, and then you say, okay, what's the quick way we can solve a part of this that people will be motivated, especially, there was always an issue.

Most stakeholders say this is a pressing need that we have. And if we have just something that can even just help us 10%, to get there we are already happy and then in that you include like the social innovation stuff as a prerequisite And then basically people get into it in a lovely way there is a thought that came up came to me where when you were saying, you know That it's hard and people say no that from now Looking at it from an in house perspective, not as the consultant trying to motivate people to do that kind of work, 

How to Navigate the 'Immune System' of Organizations


Daniele: but as an in house person, it's very different because I see that, I call it now the kind of immune system of organizations.

And I see a lot when you're working as an in house guy, doing social innovation, Service Design, or whatever you want to call it often our job is just to activate the immune system, which means having the organization go to a stage of yes, oh, that's lovely. Oh, this is interesting. Oh, we like that.

Yes, let's go do that. Up to the point where it starts to be implemented. And then usually what happens is then you have the immune system of the organization that kicks in. And that says, you have finance who says, you can't do that. Legal who says, no, that's that's dangerous.

And then you have all of the parts of the organization, that attack the thing. And usually, I think this is a misconception is that often people think once the immune system comes in, that's a bad sign. But in fact, it's the opposite, I feel. It's when people come in with, we can't do that, and you are not allowed.

And enough. That's when the real implementation work starts and that's when the ideas become, to start to get real. And that's when you have the real conversation and you fix the things. So that's how I often feel it. From an in-house perspective. Is this something that relates to how you live it as a consultant?

Is do you also see like this immune system kick in when kind of things get serious? And how do you react to that immune system, attacking the project? 

Ra Goel: Totally. That's a lovely analogy. And you're right. The immune system is doing its job. That's what they're there for. Finance is there to ask the difficult questions.

Legal is there to make sure that they're minimizing, mitigating risk. So they are absolutely doing their job. And in a way it's about having foresight and knowing that's going to come and thinking through the questions that they're going to ask and having answers for them at the point that they're asked.

Or You come up with some sort of injection drug beforehand immunization, and you in a way start the conversations and socialize the challenges and some of the solutions to those challenges early. So that you're not going and asking for, 100, 000 euros or more to implement the idea and then having that conversation.

You're starting the engagement right up front. You're having those, in fact, that is part of the process from my point of view. You never not have an initial discussion or discussions with the CEO, the Director of Income, the Marketing Director, the Finance Director, the Head of Legal. Um, when you're starting these things out, it's so important to make sure they're on board, to be early on in the process, understanding where their red lines are, where their concerns are, such that when you then are pitching and presenting, whatever it is you're pitching and presenting, you're tackling those issues, those concerns, those challenges head on, you're answering those questions before they have to ask them and that hopefully then, makes the process a little bit easier and gives you a little bit more of an open door to to push against.

Daniele: Yeah, there are two parts in this analogy, which I really like when we continue to dig into it, which is, there's a vaccine element, where we say, oh, you're going to put a small dose of the stuff that people don't like, and they're going to react to it. They're still going to have a fever.

They're still going to have a cold. a fever but it's not death, which is already better and also it's what it means is that it doesn't remove the fever after, you still get sick later, maybe, but maybe a little bit, but maybe less, and that's already great. I think this is a very interesting thing, like how can we create a little vaccine within the organization where we say, oh, we're going to.

Disturb a little bit, just enough so that it continues. And the second thing that comes to mind when we are speaking of that is, that often people see that, when a child has fever. So for that's, we both have a little children, when a child has fever, we are not in panic mode.

Usually when it's a fever you say, oh, he's growing up, he's fighting something. It's good. A fever is good sign. That's was usually what you know. It's when he is not shouting, when he's not saying anything, that's the problem. That's when you have a real danger situation. And so I feel that there is also something in here that as a realization that, yes, the organization kicking in, and reacting.

It's not something that we should just take care of completely because there is value in that kind of positive fight, like a good fever, it makes the system move, it makes the system go faster for a specific amount of time. And so we shouldn't be afraid of that. So I think this is our two very interesting ideas.

So the first is tiny vaccine, bringing small doses, but, and then the second thing, which is not being scared that there will be some tough conversations. And that it's part of it. It's part of the change process in some way. 

Ra Goel: Absolutely. And just building on that, and that's one of the reflections in the last year and on a recent project that that I was working on.

We all share our learnings with with our clients, pre kickoff, during the kickoff, making sure that we're implementing those learnings and we're using them to make sure that we're getting the best outcomes. For the projects and the clients. But one thing I've learned this year is no matter how many years you've been doing this stuff for, and no matter how many times you've gone through the rounds and tripped over in the same place again and again, don't underestimate the need for the client to make their own mistakes.

And in a way that's part of the allergic reaction or the The immune system kicking in. And in a way, my analogy here was it's like a little child learning to walk. You can tell them, try and show them how to walk, but they have to fall over for themselves to learn how to do that.

They really need to learn how to do that emotionally, they need to learn how to do this stuff with their parents, to know how to take care of them as a consultant, for example. 

We can tell them, we can teach them, we can show them, but learning by doing. The organization needs to go through this process, they need to learn, it's going to be painful, and through that pain will come strength. It's like when you break a bone, as far as I'm aware, it grows back stronger afterwards.

Daniele: And you are what in English we call, I think, a seasoned professional. Which you have some years of practice. You have a bit of gray hair like me. And you've been through a few things. And what I'd like to hear from you is, And maybe in the last five years or so, what's something that you learned in these last years that you feel like looking at your past self, you go, oh, if only you knew that, it would have made your life a lot easier.

Are there some hard learned lessons that you made these last five years? What would you like to share with us in the last years that, you would be happy to share with us so that we maybe don't make them? Good question. 

Ra Goel: It's maybe two. The first one is about asking the right question, like ensuring that you're starting in the right place.

I'll give you an example. End of last year I did a relatively small rapid piece of work for a large financial services company who specializes in insurance, consumer insurance particularly. And they wanted us to do a piece of research and insight to understand low income households, to identify ways in which they could support individuals, low income individuals and households to So we wanted to be better insured, particularly around contents insurance, which is not mandatory, unlike, for example, obviously car insurance, because when you're low income and something happens in terms of a fire or a catastrophic event or a break in, the financial impact is much higher than somebody who's maybe better off.

So we did the piece of work and for all intents and accounts, it was all It was very successful, we answered the questions, we got some interesting insight, came up with some various models and possible pathways for them to take. But on reflection, this has happened more than once, on reflection, the issue for me or the challenge for me was that the right area to focus on for them as an organisation?

Because we came out at the end of the project, made the recommendations, had the conversations at different levels. And it didn't go anywhere. And the reason that it didn't go anywhere came back to some of those bigger questions around the why. So why were they doing this? Why then? Why now? What the implication was in terms of implementation later down the line, from a timings point of view, from a resources point of view.

And actually, I think it was the wrong question at the wrong time. The work was fine, the project was absolutely valid, but actually the start point was wrong. They shouldn't have been asking that question at that point because they didn't have the right strategic framework for this piece of work to fit in.

They didn't have the right buy in from the right people and the right resources to then funnel towards that work. And I think it was like, we've done this, we've got these ideas for you. Because when's the right question at the right time? Does that make sense? 

Daniele: Absolutely. It's noticing, that there are different stages. And you have to understand what's the stage that people are in so that you Bring in the right question at the right time.

Definitely. That's a, that's definitely something that, that can help. You said two things, so I think you still have one in your bucket of of things that you want to share. 

Ra Goel: Yes. 

The big questions you should ask at the start of a social innovation project


Ra Goel: The second one was around and is around and continues to be a big issue. It's around funding and this is in the context of, all types of social innovation.

When it comes to commercial innovation. That's pretty straightforward. You identify a user group, either they are the paying customer or there might be a kind of alternative customer that actually pays. When it comes to social innovation, that's slightly different because unless you're developing products and services where the user is also the customer paying customer.

Creates social impact. There's a question, who is going to fund, who is going to pay for this innovation? Who is gonna pay for in sustainable way this product and service? And that's a challenge across all different types of organizations, be it government, be it not-for-profits, be it even social entrepreneurs in terms of where does the money come from.

So if you look at that question in the context of a not-for-profit, who wants to increase? Broaden their impact and one way of doing it is, of course, they can just utilize their existing sources of funds, whether that's from, large corporations or philanthropists or individuals, and redirect it towards those initiatives.

But what we tend to see is that actually there's an opportunity cost, and where, when this stuff is high risk, Potentially higher reward, but certainly higher risk, it's unknown, it's scary, versus something which is known, it's proven, might be also challenging. What you tend to find is within those organizations and their culture, they're risk averse, so they'll go, no, we're not going to fund the shiny, exciting, but high risk thing, we'll go with what we know.

So there's a real question around, okay, when you're starting off from these programs, what is the funding model? How is this stuff going to get off the ground? And once it gets off the ground, how is it going to sustain itself? And that, I would say, is such a fundamental question. Where, once again, I've come into situations where organizations have ideas, they develop something and they want to either develop it further, finesse it, launch it, wherever they might be in the process.

And what they haven't done is thought about how are we going to fund it? And how's it going to be? Who's going to pay for it? And suddenly there's a big we don't know. And we can't afford it through our normal charitable sources. And actually we haven't thought about whether a user, the user that it was designed for, is going to actually pay for it because they, because they see value in it.

So there's some real fundamental questions around the funding sustainability. Where's it from? Where's it come from? Who's actually going to fund it to set it up and develop it? Who's going to fund it? I think when you're thinking about developing new social products and services, it's having that at the forefront of your mind as you're developing the actual thing itself and thinking about, okay, where's the money going to come from and who's going to pay for it, essentially.

Daniele: That's a very good question. Who's going to pay for it? How much and how often? And is it enough? Financial modeling is is really one of the very key things in this kind of stuff. And it's not an easy one. I remember back in the days at Good Innovation, we had a very smart guy doing that stuff.

And I was always amazed by, how he was able kind of to, To imagine with numbers, Oh, we could make it, we could not make it. And I think this bringing in also these finance people is always something that is extremely important. 

How can bottom up social innovation be successful in the public space?


Daniele: We have a question from Marta: how can bottom up social innovation be successful in the public space? Politics and budgets seem insurmountable blockers. What's your take on that? 

Ra Goel: That's a very good and thought provoking question. I think what's really interesting within the Social space, and by that I guess my interpretation is within communities, it's a civic space, that there's so much happening, so many interesting things happening, so much great thinking, great activity at a small scale.

I'll give you an example. So I, have been and are currently working with the UK's largest social housing provider, Claren Housing, who have got a competition and a prize called the William Sutton Prize, which we've been helping them to re imagine, redesign, and relaunch. Claren Housing look after around half a million individuals living in social housings, therefore they're low income.

And with that comes a whole raft of challenges from a kind of social point of view in terms of challenges with access to employment, financial literacy social problems within households and communities. And what's really amazing is that through this prize that enable those communities to be able to bid for funding to be able to support the development of ideas.

There is just so much brilliant stuff happening when you get a group of people facing common challenges coming together with the right, conditions and support. You get some really brilliant thinking and really brilliant and creative ideas. I guess the challenge is how does society or How do organizations support them through through funding, of course, because budgets are very challenging but also through other means.

And I think this is the thing that I've seen that large organizations can do really successfully. I think all around us finding budgets for activities, particularly around innovation can be very difficult. But. The value that large organizations actually bring to the party isn't just about money.

Actually, what they bring is knowledge, expertise, networks. There are a hotbed and they're a real kind of catalyst for facilitation change. So actually, if those organizations can somehow provide their expertise, reach out knowledge brands and connect those. Individuals and organizations, communities to the right places to be able to grow their ideas, to be able to share those ideas, then that can have significant influence over the impact that can have.

Daniele: And I think there is another value of these organizations, if you look at the history of the Salvation Army, which I knew a few little things about as my wife is a pastor there, in the history of it, you see how the kind of the founders always said we're going to do the social services that nobody else can do.

Because of politics, because of money, because of image, we're going to help the poor, the alcoholics, the crazy, the ones that people hate. And usually what happens is that, what's crazy today, the ones that we hate today, are not the same as the ones that we find crazy or hate tomorrow.

And what happens, and that's very interesting in the history, for example, of that Salvation Army, is that suddenly, they created stuff, and then That problem, they showed an example of what, how we could do it. And then either the state or commercial things, took it over, and said, Oh, this is good.

Now we can do it, but they needed to have that push. And then what the Salvation Army did, they said, so we don't need to do this anymore. So we can now focus on new challenges. That's again, people hate, people find crazy and this kind of stuff. And I think there is a value, Not saying that everybody should create the next Salvation Army or something like that, but rather to say, also on a small level, you can be this example in your city, in your village, of building something with a bunch of volunteers, and then if it solves really a problem, usually it changes the perception that people have about that issue, and then suddenly, It's much easier for politics to kick in because they will say, hold on, this is a real problem, these guys have been solving it for years and, they need support.

And then suddenly the support comes. But someone needs to, to push it, to start it. I feel this is a very interesting way to see that. Big organizations can do that, but also volunteers and other crazy people can do that. Obviously, it's a very optimistic view of the world, but sometimes we need also a little bit of that.

Ra Goel: agree. Just building on what you're saying, I think sometimes, not sometimes, but very often, when ideas come about and are implemented outside of large bureaucratic frameworks, they have the space to breathe. Frankly, The culture within these large organizations, yes they've got resources, yes they've got expertise, yes they have networks which are very valuable in themselves.

By virtue of having none of that around you, but you have this flexibility, fluidity, you have passion, you have people willing to try and commit and fail that's worth as much if not more. You don't have that the fear that you'll get. You don't have the the, um, the kind of eagle eye that when you are in a large organization of needing to kinda hit KPIs by certain times, et cetera, et cetera.

I think it's actually both sides is really important. Having civil societals, those volunteers, trying something new, building it, but at the same time, those large organizations with the resources and with the influence be able to support them, pump prime them to be able to then scale them.

And essentially. Lean into their networks and what they're good at the right time. 

Daniele: Absolutely. 

Tactics for Gaining Buy-In on Projects


Daniele: We have another question comes from a dragonfly today, which is what have been successful strategies to create buy in. And so I'm going to rephrase a little bit that question. And what are, what Tactics, a few simple tactics that maybe people could try, simple things that you say, Oh, this could help, maybe do this, try this, and it could help you to get more buy in for this kind of projects.

Ra Goel: Precedent is always really valuable. So being able to just bring case studies to the table, this is what other people have been doing. This is what other people within your sector have been doing, who are really similar to you as an organization. And this is how they did it and this is what they've achieved from it to demonstrate.

I think people feel comfortable knowing that they're not the first that the road has been slightly trodden on before. That, that are, exploring to even better being able to then connect to those individuals. Say, look, do you want to speak to such and such? They've gone through this process, they've done it, they can tell you what it's like.

It's one thing to be a consultant. Advising, given my point of view, it's another thing, somebody sitting in the same chair in another similar organization, be able to then give that view. Be able to bring the right people into the room with the right examples is really powerful. I think there's something else around, back to my point about quick wins I think it's really important when you're thinking about these longer term programs that can require, A process and investment of time, money, other resources to be able to, people, be able to create quick wins.

And by, by quick wins is how do you get a win under the table that, that, that meets the objectives of the organization that can get them excited. It's not going to be, the big game changer, but it can demonstrate that we can do this as an organization. We have the capabilities, we have the capacity, we have the right people.

We now have. a process and a framework that enables us to take more risks and do it bigger and better. So where you can start smaller, demonstrate success, prove that you can get traction and then go in and ask for more. 

Daniele: I'd add two tiny hacks, one which is, safaris, basically, going to look at these services, these innovative things, and not just reading about them.

And obviously having a call with these people is always it's always next level, but the next level is, fly people to these places, and That's I often see the projects that I often see getting started is when someone, comes back from a travel and says, we've seen that in Amsterdam.

And my God, it's amazing. We need the same thing, and this is a thing that works really well because of seeing it from your own eyes is magical. If it's too hard, you can do a safari in another way, which is like having, people see the problem. From the customer or the user side, which means bring them in, in, some interviews or things like that, where they hear from people how painful something is, or how willing they would be, to have an organization do this and pay for a service or something, because Being in front of the person or just next to her who's saying that, it's a very different experience than having a report that says, Oh, we believe this, there is here some value.

So this is on the safari part. And the second one, which I find very funny is stealing a proven process. I've I've used that a lot, which is, saying, Oh, we're going to do this. In the design sprint way, which is a kind of a proven system by Google, and then suddenly, it sounds more oh, if Google does it, then we can do it.

And yeah, it's like a recipe, we just have to follow it, and trust it, and usually what happens is that people get uncomfortable with it. in the middle of it, but then they remember, oh, the guys of Google do it, and so it's working. And the process, doesn't have to be fancy or anything, because there are a lot of processes, and you can find the one that matches the way you work, but having a big brand behind it, where you can say, They use that process and we're going to use exactly the same thing.

Obviously it feels like much more reassuring and I think these are a few of buy in tips that can help at different stages. But I have a last question for you and we covered a lot of kind of like the more expert side on how to navigate those topics. 

Where to Begin Your Journey in Social Innovation?


Daniele: I'd like to hear from you do you have You know, maybe a few resources, a book, a course, or a person to follow that you could recommend for people who say, oh, the social innovation thing.

That's something that is really interesting to me. Where, how could they start their journey in that world? 

Ra Goel: Good question. I don't have any books such what I would say, if you're interested in this space, Find, you already might have one, but find a theme that really interests you, that you're really passionate about.

For me, for example, it's always been health and well being. And that runs in my DNA. I come from a family of doctors. I was thinking about being a doctor up until the point where I decided on my university degree and I pivoted away from that. But then I've gone deep into that field over the years and the course of my career, even working for the Department of Health in the UK.

So find a theme that you're really interested in and go deep, because by, by understanding the theme and the issues within that theme, you'll start to identify where the problem points are that you could potentially go and either come up with ideas yourself as a social entrepreneur or even, um, obviously work for another organization to address those issues.

In terms of, other organizations that you might wanna have a look at where Daniel Danieli and I met good innovation I still partner with them. They're a brilliant group of people working with the leading not-for-profits in the uk. They do some excellent work nester as well in the uk.

They're a large social innovation consultancy as our brink. But then if you're interested in the whole social entrepreneurship space I'd recommend having a look at an organization called Zinc VC. They've been going for a few years. They've got a really interesting model whereby they support the development of new ideas.

They're pump priming, bringing in founders to develop new solutions to big missions. So one's, one was about an Asian population. One was about mental health. One was about financial resilience, and there's some really excellent startup ventures coming out of that, so social impact startup ventures.

And there are some also in Germany, so if anyone is from Germany here and you're interested in social entrepreneurship, there is SEND who the social entrepreneurship networks Deutschland, and I think there's also an impact hub as well. So there are pockets and groups of Organizations and membership bodies that are looking at this stuff.

And just one other comment if I can if I can make in terms of, if you're looking to get into social innovation I guess the first point of call is, if you're working, within an organization at the moment, perhaps there's an opportunity within that organization itself. So are you working on a project at the moment that has the propensity to have social impact?

Go away and have a look if your company or the project or the kind of broader environment has a sustainability strategy, have a look at what the objectives are, have a look at whether the work that you're doing could help to deliver those objectives in some way, shape, form. It's not just about working for a social innovation company or a not for profit, actually, within the private sector, commercial projects, there's some really powerful things that can be done in terms of features on a service or extensions that can have profound and long lasting impacts in the social space.

Daniele: Thanks so much, Roy, for all of these resources and inspirations. I think, obviously, starting where you already are is always a very interesting provocation. I think this is one that I especially love. And you've given us also all of these names that people can Google and check, especially a few of them, also come with a lot of frameworks and resources.

I know, especially UNESTA has a lot of stuff published that is freely available, freely accessible. So check all of that. 

Closing words


Daniele: I want to say one more thing, which is a big thank you to you for this lovely session, for all the inspiration. It's been also very inspiring for me to riff on this idea of the immune system.

I really enjoyed it also picking your brain on those ideas and and I learned a lot today so thank you for that. I'm excited to see where our paths will cross again.

I think in Basel, in the Zoo for sure with our kids, for today, a big thank you to you. Thanks for having me. .

This webinar transcript was generated automatically. Therefore, it will contain errors and funny sentences.

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