On the 23rd of January 2023, the BMBF hosted its maiden Social Innovation International event to kick off a series of networking events focusing on social innovations in different parts of the world. The kickoff event happened in a safe virtual environment under the leadership of the Office of the Commissioner for Social Innovation. In attendance from the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy were Prof. Dr. Heike Grimm, MPP student Priscilla Boatemaa Appiah, and alumni Lamin O’Ceesay and Meseret Abebe, who joined other practitioners, researchers and representatives of the public and private sector with high engagement on the topic.
Opening the discussion was the Commissioner for Social Innovation, Ms. Zarah Bruhn whose appointment on 1 April 2022 signaled the Federal Ministry’s commitment to strengthening social innovation and providing targeted support for the sector in Germany. The Commissioner for Social Innovation in her passionate, inspiring and thought-provoking keynote speech, emphasized the importance of social entrepreneurship to the BMBF and her ambition to strengthen the minds behind social innovation in Germany by learning from experts internationally.
Following her keynote were impact stories of demand-driven social innovations from Kenya, Morocco, Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda. It was evident that social innovation, truly, is defined by its outcome.
Further discussions were held on possible contributions of the research community as well public and private sector actors in exploring and enabling the full development of social innovations that seek to solve the problems of today without incurring costs for tomorrow.
Some key action points proposed for the academic community include the promotion of social entrepreneurial education as an integral part of university education and curriculum, establishing strong connections between practitioners and researchers as well as the creation of safe spaces for creative problem solving and social innovation on university campuses.
Nigerian Social entrepreneur Ms. Ndidi Nwuneli posited that Africa has a motivated generation of young change makers who can re-write the one sided narrative of poverty and hunger on the continent through demand-driven innovations. Project presentations by Ms. Angela Musiimenta, Prof. Abdelhadi Soudi and Dr. Daniel Opoku also showcased how African-German research collaborations have led to high impact innovations in various sectors with a diverse array of beneficiaries.
The event ended with a profound acknowledgement that while the concept of social innovation is in itself good, social innovations have to be demand driven to have a chance at truly tackling the problems of our time. Mr. Armin Reinartz of the BMBF’s quote “social innovation is defined by its outcome” will definitely stick with participants for a long time.
The Brandt School looks forward to working closely with the federal ministry in its agenda to promote social innovation in Germany.
Author of the article: Priscilla Boatemaa Appiah, second-year student at the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy.