Innovation Trimtabs


The Core 4:
The essential "Innovation Trimtabs" that every effective social innovation has in common 


At its essence, this is all about "putting empathy in action". Empathy is the beating heart of all effective social innovation. Empathy is what inspires action. It is only through empathy that individual/community challenges and opportunities can be truly understood and sympathy can be avoided.  It is empathy that forms the foundation of relationships for innovation teams. Great social innovations are designed to put the most empathetic as the catalyzers of change. And empathy is what helps us to avoid transactions and focus on building relationships. 

Human Agency:

Effective social innovation recognizes and sparks the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices. It recognizes and elevates people's "actual" abilities. 


Self-efficacy refers to an individual's belief in his or her capacity to execute behaviors necessary to produce specific performance attainments. This is about perception. Effective social innovations don't only recognize and seeks to enhance "actual" abilities (human agency), but in addition, they help to foster a greater "sense"/"perception" of ability. This is a virtuous circle. 

Social Capital:

Without exception, every high-impact, sustainable and scalable social innovation either creates and/or leverages social capital ("relationships"/"community"/"teamwork").

10 Driving "Innovation Trimtabs"

Break the conventional wisdom and just do the opposite


In Action:

Not requiring upfront payment or collateral for first-time women entrepreneurs in the developing world- 

Not asking for any requirements before hiring people - "No Background Check, Drug Test or Credit Check. You're Hired!"

Not requiring treatment before dispensing drugs for opiod addiction - "Treatment for Opioid Addiction, With No Strings Attached"

"Why Restorative Justice Is About More Than Reducing Suspensions”

Get to the heart of the problem(s) Design based on the SPECIFIC Why(s) 


In Action:

Getting to the root cause of school absences - “Schools Find a New Way to Combat Student Absences: Washing Machines”

sdfasdfasdfasdfasdfff - "Finding the Magic in a Collective Model for Childcare and Co-Working"

Getting to the root cause of young women dropping out of school-

 ADFASDFASDFASDFASDF -         "Assisting the Poor to Make Bail Helps Everyone"

"Inclusion Health: An Irish answer to the Homelessness Crisis"

RE - purpose/direct/imagine


In Action:

Repurposing reading children's books - "For Refugee Children, Reading Helps Heal Trauma" 

Redirecting the skillsets of the recently incarcerated - "Entrepreneurship Provides New Hope for Former Prisoners"

Reimagining walking - "Walking Together for Health and Spirit"

Reimagining recess - 

Empower the most affected by the problem as drivers of a solution


In Action:

Empowering the (potential) victims of sexual violence - " Equipping Women to Stop Campus Rape"

Giving families a role in the defense of their loved ones - "Guiding Families to a Fair Day in Court"

Helping a town take charge of discovering and prioritizing its own needs - "Middlebury is walking towards restoration"

"Action Civics in Schools"

"Solar to the people: This Detroiter is making solar technology accessible to all"

Empowering the historical "antagonists" to become the agents of change


In Action:

Putting truckers in charge of reducing human trafficking - "Truckers Take on Human Trafficking"

Deprofessionalize to fill in gaps and create an opportunity for people to help people


In Action:

Deprofessionalizing the need for a "doctor" on site- "The Power to Cure, Multiplied"

Deprofessionalizing the need for an "optometrist"on site - 

 "Fighting Street Gun Violence as if It Were a Contagion"

 "It Takes a Friend to Get a Friend to Vote"

"How a Tapestry of Care Helps Teens Succeed"

Use an inclusive lens and identify and leverage strength where others see deficit


In Action:

ajdskjasdfkljaslkfdj - "Inclusion Pays Off"

Use data to inform + discover opportunities


In Action:

asdfasdfafaf - "When Families Lead Themselves Out of Poverty"

"How Technology Could Revolutionize Refugee Resettlement"

 "How a $4 Device Is Saving Farmers From Climate Devastation"

Creating a simple tool where people can identify and prioritize their own needs - "A private sector 'productivity tool' to eliminate poverty is catching on around the world”

 "3 cities in the U.S. have ended chronic homelessness: Here's how they did it”

Create value and opportunity by turning "garbage into gold"


In Action:


Professionalizing the work of waste pickers - "Plastic with a Purpose"

"In Haiti, turning human waste to flowers"

"Ghost Gear Busters: Paying Fishers to Collect Derelict Nets, Traps"

Use creative financing that respects people's financial limitations

ajdskjasdfkljaslkfdjf - Understanding "poor" people have money, they just don't have it all NOW - 

In Action:

Using a cross-subsidy mechanism - 

Creating a pay as you go system for solar panels - "Africa's quiet solar revolution"

"The Real Future of Clean Water"

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