The Skoll World Forum 2007 :enabling innovation

I’m at Skoll World Forum in Oxford looking at at ways of enabling social innovation. And while you might think the BBC as an organisation is not in this field, I would argue strongly that it is. While we are not social entrepreneurs we do have a pro-social remit enshrined in our Charter. Namely,

sustaining citizenship and civil society;
promoting education and learning;
stimulating creativity and cultural excellence;
representing the UK, its nations, regions and communities;
bringing the UK to the world and the world to the UK;
and helping to deliver to the public the benefit of emerging communications technologies and services and, in addition, taking a leading role in the switchover to digital television.

Indeed a colleague, Tom Loosemore, at a recent seminar at the RSA, suggested that programmes were but one vehicles for delivering these purposes.

In the earlier days of analogue the Open University was a huge social innovation brought to the people of the UK by the BBC from the idea of Michael Young, a serial social entrepreneur.

The enabling of innovation is central to what we do, both as someone working in a dedicated innovation team, but to many or most of my colleagues in their day to day jobs. Speaking for myself though we have studied and incorporated innovation practises from business, from academia, from the world of design and from our licence-fee payers, amongst other fields, and of course, grown some of our own. Currently the team I work in runs a series of innovation initiatives with research partners, lead users, SMEs and independent producers, and academic partners.

As our business units and organisation changes and restructures so too do these processes, from high to low – and that is what is so fascinating about this ever moving field. Units come and go but the need to innovate remains crucial. What an organisation chooses to do in this field at any one time is quite an indicator of what is going on more widely. In my own organisation I can see innovation all over the organisation – springing up into newly forming groups all of whom want to get ahead with embracing the world of digital media and it begs the question. Do you really need experts, or are we all innovators now, social or otherwise?

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