The British Council hosted ‘FUTURES – Social Innovation Forum’ brought to you by Dialog in partnership with Softlogic, Brandix, AMW, and Horizon Campus on 21 and 22 March, at the Colombo Hilton. Over 140 participants from the public sector, private sector, not-for-profit organisations, consumer groups and young entrepreneurs, came together to explore innovative solutions to Sri Lanka’s social issues.
Keith Davies, Country Director, British Council Sri Lanka, said: “The British Council works in four main areas: English, Education, Arts, and Society. FUTURES is a programme that falls under our work in social development. In Sri Lanka, our Society work includes supporting Sri Lankan youth through our programmes such as Climate Champions, Global Changemakers, and Active Citizens. Most of our young aspiring entrepreneurs of these programmes joined us as the forum. It was a wonderful opportunity for them to meet with organisations and potential partners who can take forward their innovative ideas. The programme was also an opportunity for the British Council to engage with all the sectors to increase the impact and reach of our work in social development.”
The forum focused on the social issues in Health, Water, and Education in Sri Lanka. Participants focused on each issue in detail by first analysing the social issues from multiple perspectives, building futuristic scenarios, and then designing innovative ideas and solutions. Valuable insights were shared and ideas were openly debated and discussed. It was an engaging and useful forum, which hopefully, will pave the way for the innovation of new products, services, business models, and policies that strive to address Sri Lanka’s social issues.
What is social innovation?
Although the definition varies based on the source, the essence of social innovation is “creating new and sustainable solutions that solve social issues at large”. Social issues and environmental issues cannot be spoken in isolation because they’ve become inseparable. Therefore social issues inherently consist of environmental issues. The solutions to these issues can come in many forms. It can be a new product or a service and they may come from for-profit or not-for-profit companies or from partnerships between companies and the government and even from the communities themselves.
What is FUTURES – Social Innovation Forum?
The FUTURES approach is to involve multiple stakeholders from the private, public, not-for-profit sectors to inspire creativity and innovation by building informed scenarios of the future to address social issues.
The project consists of two key activities. The first was a learning journey to the UK where the partner organisations had the opportunity to meet with a multitude of UK stakeholders in social innovation.
The second key activity was the two-day forum which involved 147 hand-picked participants that focused on three social issues: Water, Education, and Health.
Eranda Ginige, Head Partnerships and Business Development, British Council, said: “FUTURES is not just a two-day event. We expect commitment from the participants to take their ideas forward and the British Council will act as an enabler by developing partnerships and continuing the discussion over the next year.”
The British Council hopes that this initiative will act as a catalyst in developing a new generation of social entrepreneurs, innovative products and services, new business models and policies that will help create a better future.