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The concept of social innovation has slowly crept into Nigeria and has taken its place as an ideal blueprint for the development of the nation especially with the use of technology. So far, there have been massive attempt to innovate for good. Some of these have taken off and some have not. This paper examines the social innovation models of social innovators that have gotten a winning sphere of it in Nigeria.
Delving into the essence of this paper, it is important to explain the term “social innovation” as used throughout. According to the Oxford paper on Social Innovation; What is it, why it matters and how it should be accelerated by Geoff Mulgan,” Social Innovation are innovative activities and services that are motivated by the goal of meeting a social need and that are predominantly developed and diffused through organizations whose primary purpose are social”. The applications for social innovations are diverse, from systems strengthening, mobilizing communities to hone methods and techniques.
Ellis (2010), says that the concept of innovation can be traced back to 3200 BC and it continues to develop and adapt to the sustainable future. The meaning of social innovation is not different in Nigeria, however, the myriad of social problems, which include poverty, inequality, injustice, without solutions in view may set a unique trajectory. The average citizen is constantly improvising in the face of insurmountable social challenges. Not in all cases do we realize or acknowledge how much of these become the building blocks for social innovation for our context.
Social innovation and impact landscape in nigeria.
Like most African countries, the ministry that handles all innovations especially that involving technology is the Ministry of science and technology in Nigeria. They are directly tasked with facilitating the development and deployment of Science and Technology apparatus to hasten the pace of socio-economic development of the country. According to the 2012 policy on Science Technology and Innovation signed by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan., the general motive of it is to “build a strong Science, Technology and Innovation capability and capacity needed to evolve a modern economy”.
Although the policies are there, the ecosystem is not as evolving as it can be. But it is definitely progress. The market for social innovation in Nigeria is currently filled with International Development Agencies, Startup business founders, software developers and research institute. The government’s presence is a bit shadowy. And the most relevant social innovations now are those that deal with the issue of corruption – accountability in government, waste disposal/recycling, agriculture, and education.
However, the most trending of these innovations is those in agriculture. This is because of the latest recession that the country suffered, the government and other stakeholders started a major farming campaign for the Nigerian youth. This led to a massive onslaught of innovative ways where people can farm in order to address the issue of hunger and poverty.
To authenticate this statement, a review of the funding frequency by the government towards encouraging agricultural innovations – According to a report paper by Godwin Emefele – former governor of the central bank of Nigeria which was published in the leadership paper. He said, ”The Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NISRAL) designed to enhance lending to agriculture by de-risking the sector through credit risk guarantee, among others, to increase production and processing along the value chain. N75 billion was provided by the CBN. Furthermore, The Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme (ACGS) Fund administered by the Central Bank of Nigeria provides up to 75 percent guarantee for all loans granted by commercial banks for agricultural production, and processing”.
So far, the major motivation still for most social innovators in Nigeria is first, the need to solve a social problem and secondly the need to make money. Hence, we have more social entrepreneurs then more non for profit innovations. As regards the money valuation for money so far invested in social innovations in Nigeria, no study has done a value for money analysis on social innovation but annually, 0.15% of overseas development assistance goes to social innovations in Africa”
There are several categories under which innovations can be grouped. They are mostly classified around the platform type, civic/gov tech and the size of the innovation. The case study was selected based on the gov/tech focus and the impact scale of their innovation.
On the issue of social impact assessment, it is a constantly revolving debate in the social innovation/ enterprise sector. Everyone wants to do it, but no one has really figured it out – at least not in a meaningful, practical way that delivers a result that simultaneously satisfies organizations, beneficiaries, funders and other key stakeholders. (Pathak,2013) A close look at social innovations in Nigeria.
In line with the Transformation Agenda and Nigeria Vision 20:2020, it is practically impossible for Nigeria to become one of the top 20 economies by the year 2020 without entrenching Science, Technology, and Innovation. (NSI Draft, 2013) So to do that we are first looking at what is obtainable now in terms of social innovations by reviewing some prominent innovations using the framework of their size, impact reach as specified and their financial growth and funding type.
Case study 1 – budget.
The budget formation process in the highest level of government in Nigeria is laced with inadequacies and a stifled number of accuracy. It is often filled with figure padding and deliberate obscurity.
This is alleged to stimulate corruption in different sectors. There has also been the case of missing budget as seen in 2016. This was carried by different newsrooms like the BBC. With situations like this, it is clear that accountability within the Nigerian Parliament was necessary and this gave rise to case study number 1 – Budget.
Founded in 2011, BudgIT is a civic organization that applies technology to intersect citizen engagement with institutional improvement, to facilitate societal change. A pioneer in the field of social advocacy melded with technology, BudgIT uses an array of tech tools to simplify the budget and matters of public spending for citizens, with the primary aim of raising the standard of transparency and accountability in government.
They are in constant partnership with civil society, public institutions, and the media, chiefly in the areas of fiscal analyses, civic technology, and data representation. BudgIT’s methodology is deploying refined data mining skill sets to creatively represent data and empower citizens to use the resulting information in demanding improved service delivery.
BudgiT is a startup that was incubated by the social innovation tech hub CChub in Lagos. They were strategically placed enough to get funding from foreign aid foundations. These helped to instigate their initial process and also strengthen their resolve to do good work.
Although budget says they have reached over 75,000 Nigerians both offline and online, In a country of over 180 million people, that number is quite negligent in the grand scheme of things. This is mostly because the use of tech to showcase the budget is still too far-fetched from Nigerians leaving in rural areas. Also, there are over 200 languages in this country and although English is the official language spoken in Nigeria, A lot of people are still not able to speak the language. All these could be restrictions that they face which limits their reach and invariably impact scale.
However, we can’t deny that BugdIT‘s purpose of enhancing accountability at all levels of government is a necessary social innovation in a country like Nigeria. A nation in which corruption is deeply rooted in its fabric and from where stems all her social problems
Case study 2- connected development (code)
Connected Development is a social Innovation that has been set up to create a movement of accountability within the nation. Although quite similar to BudgIT, in terms of the primary purpose of setup, their method is quite different.
Founded in 2012, Connected Development [CODE] is a non-government organization [NGO] whose mission is to empower marginalized communities in Africa. They strengthen local communities by creating platforms for dialogue, enabling informed debate, and building capacities of citizens on how to hold their government accountable through a program created called ‘Follow the Money’
CODE provides marginalized and vulnerable communities with resources to amplify their voices with independence and integrity while providing the communities with information that ushers social and economic progress. To enhance effective democratic governance and accountability, CODE creates platforms [mobile and web technologies] that close the feedback loop between citizens and the government. With global expertise and reach, they focus on community outreach, influencing policies, practices, and knowledge mobilization.
CODE’s committed to participatory capacity & community building and monitoring and evaluation which creates effective and sustainable programs even within the most challenging environments.
The more hands-on approach that CODE has taken in ensuring its accountability is very commendable. This is because they can boast to reach a further range of people and the communities in which they help are more aware of their work and can feel the direct effect.
Although CODE was not incubated as such, they have learned so far from the Job. By constant participation in the work and interfacing with the people, they have been mostly involved with grass root mobilization to ensure a more transparent government. Still, the impact scale of CODE as of 2017 was 523,000 people across 31 rural communities in Plateau, Kebbi, Benue, Kwara, Adamawa, Kaduna, Delta, IMO, Edo, Abia, Akwa, Ibom, Gombe, Sokoto, Yobe, Cross River, Ondo, and Kano. Although these numbers are good, in some parts of Nigeria they still remain obscure and the value of their work is unknown.
A lot of their financial support comes from a grant from foreign aid foundations like Omydya network and ford foundation without which their work will be difficult to execute and implement, Nigerian investors and foundations are not yet buying into the value of their work. This on its own is a severe cause of concern.
Case study 3 – recyclers
Unlike the first two, Wecyclers is a social innovation enterprise that addresses the issue of waste disposal through recycling. This directly attains to the sustainable development goal 3,12 and 13. Solely based in Lagos State, Wecyclers is a for-profit social enterprise that promotes environmental sustainability, socioeconomic development, and community health by providing convenient recycling services in densely populated urban neighborhoods.
Wecyclers addresses the challenge of urban waste. According to their website, they began in 2012, only 40% of the city’s waste was collected and only a mere 13% was recycled.
Wyclers being a social enterprise was able to figure out their business model to ensure sustainability. And this has led to their growth in a massive way. In their initial stage, they were incubated by CCHub, the social innovation tech hub in Lagos and also seed funded by the different foreign organization.
A major success of Wecyclers has being to develop their sustainability model and sell the idea so much so that they now have a various franchise of their business in other parts of this country. This has helped them to dutifully address the problem of impact scale. Although their impact measurement has not been fully identified, it no doubt looks mighty good on paper.
Wyclers is simply put, helping the environment while helping people make money. A double win situation and a sure path to continuous growth.
Lessons from the concept.
After observing these innovations, there are obvious reasons to show the lessons gotten. Mostly because they will help us show a path that we can adopt as innovators in Nigeria. Some of these lessons include:
1. Social Innovations are currently being seed funded mostly by Foreign aid organizations
2. Innovations incubated are more apt at their impact scale measurement
3. Majority of the population in Nigeria, don’t yet understand the work being done because they are not properly explained in their local dialect.
4. Social enterprises are more inclined to growth because it also has a profit bais that might instigate the founders
5. Nigerians still have a long way to go to fully understand the real essence of social innovations in our community
6. Social Innovators need to refocus on partnerships with government
7. Social Innovators should innovate for sustainability and value
8. Social Innovators should instigate local investments as it can help produce shared value for all parties involved
“Social innovations are, in order words often born with the initiative from committed citizens with social vision, will and drive. They are driven by the passionate pioneer’s ad grassroots activities rather than from political environments and government-owned research and development laboratories. They are driven from within and from below. It is often those who have social problems or unsatisfied needs closest to them who also have the solutions. Society needs thousands of ideas for social innovation” (Ellis, 2010)
In Nigeria, innovators are determined to create solutions that can address a specific social problem. But the major task of implementation and scale can mostly be achieved by impact investing and designing with the user. The first of which must be re-orientated by most innovators and stakeholders to investors in order to create home-grown investors. The second of which must be done through massive research in order to identify the needs and most effective utilization path to double impact reach.
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