Gururaj Deshpande is a venture capitalist and founder of Internet equipment manufacturer Sycamore Networks. His Deshpande Foundation runs an event called the Social Innovation Sandbox in India, where they try to find new social enterprises and refine their missions. Looking at these various ventures, Deshpande says that when you start a new company, you think of a new service or product that will fill a gap and make consumers’ lives better or easier. There isn’t really any difference in starting a social venture: You should be looking for an innovative new idea, service, or product that is going to improve the world. This idea of applying the same methodologies and rubrics to a social enterprise that you would a startup is a lot of what’s driving the new glut of companies with social missions, and those companies themselves are driving a lot of change.
Deshpande’s tip for successful social innovation: Focus on the actual innovation. Make sure you ask yourself whether what you’re doing is new. If it is a true innovation, then you should be able to get money (from the private sector or government) and find a way to scale. What’s the best way to make sure what you’re doing is innovative? Co-create with the people you’re serving, rather than just dropping a solution on them. It’s the way companies work, Deshpande says, and there’s no reason our global solutions shouldn’t function the same way.
This video is part of a series on prominent social innovators–all convened by PricewaterhouseCooper during the 2012 Social Innovation Summit–who are discussing the evolution of social innovation and offering advice to social entrepreneurs. We’ll be featuring them here on Co.Exist.
Here’s a little preview of everyone who will be featured.