Social innovation

For the purposes of this portal social innovation is defined as new strategies, concepts, ideas and organisations that meet social needs. Activities as diverse as micro-financing, the reformulation of the arts sector as ‘creative industries’ and the introduction of community development workers are regarded as social innovations.

Generally speaking social innovation takes place within society or the non-profit sector, but can also take place within government and private companies. The documents related to social innovation and policy in this section are aimed at supporting rigorous approaches to policy formulation.

Related publications

Argues that the mechanisms for stimulating social innovation need to be investigated in a systematic way through a programme of practice-based research. Also read other policy briefings from NESTA

Issue 4 of the newsletter focuses on the issue of violent crime in South Africa. The newsletter aims to stimulate debate around evidence-based policy-making. To contribute to future editions plesae send your submissions to [email protected]­.

Issue Three of the PAN newsletter focuses on the interface between child-centred evidence and related policy. It features a range of resources that illustrate how child-focused data and research evidence can contribute to and inform better outcomes for children when formulating social policy.
Aims to understand what new evidence can reveal about some important public policy questions that involve issues around identity.
An account of innovation in the public sector, with an innovation checklist, and six elements of an innovative public sector. Also read other provocations from NESTA.

This document features some of the most notable innovations, lessons learned and good practices from UNICEF’s 2009 and 2010 programme reporting, incorporating updated information and results obtained as of late 2011. They are presented here to highlight innovative initiatives of UNICEF and its country-level partners and to share lessons learned and good practices identified in working to reach the most deprived children and families.

Sets out the top tips to transform monitoring and evaluation from a box-ticking exercise into a major organisational asset, and shares the story of how the monitoring system ‘Views’ was developed.

Sets out the key issues to consider when designing and managing evaluations, and the presentation and interpretation of evaluation results. Describes why thinking about evaluation before and during the policy design phase can help to improve the quality of evaluation results without needing to hinder the policy proce­ss.
­Sets out practical steps that are needed to deliver a more effective state.
Call for the development of a course which will improve  organizational capacity to influence public policies in developing countries - deadline 23 January 2011
A case book aimed at ensuring­ that managers are using evidence to make decisions and development stakeholders are able to keep track of progress.
Reviews international good practice for using data in policymaking and develops a conceptual framework for characterising and classifying the different elements of a data strategy for public sector orga­nisations.
A free, online, interactive tool, which maps and graphs more than 175 indicators from the World Bank’s development database.
In the final issue of the PAN newsletter for 2011 ­we look at how the evaluation of government programmes can be invaluable in improving performance and service delivery.
A presentation outlining approaches to achieving research-based­ policies.

This is the first edition of the Policy > Action Network newsletter, From Evidence to Action, published with support from the Programme to Support Pro-Poor Policy Development (PSPPD), a partnership between the Presidency and the Eu­ropean Union.­

A conceptual framework to be used in the production of case studies which identify factors that help or hinder rigorous impact evaluations from influencing policy.
The main purpose of this handbook is to facilitate the investment process of a public research institute in developing a system (from the simplest to the most sophisticated) of monitoring and evaluation (M&E), and knowledge management (KM) of the impact of research on public policy.
Aims to provide analytical tools and resources to assist analysts and managers with policy development or service-planning projects.

Following on an earlier seminar on this issue, we will now host a further seminar where Katharine Frost from Ububele will present on the theoretical underpinnings of the approach taken to further build up our understanding of these projects. South Africa’s ECD policy is progressive but there remains a gap between policy and intervention/implementation. The centrality of relationships i.e. attachment and bonding in the first 1000 days of a child’s life is acknowledged, but this knowledge needs to be translated into practice. A case example will be presented where attachment theory has been integrated into a project and where there is now some evidence to support its effectiveness.

A helpdesk research report which provides an overview of the role of cooperatives in pro-poor aid interventions and development, and identifies­ donor approaches and lessons learned in supporting and facilitating their role and impact.
Eight case studies of community protest and xenophobic violence in South Africa with recommendations under the categories of social justice activism, reforming the state, and socio-economic interventions.­
The ­Grameen Foundation website highlights successful microfinancing case studies in a number of countries, and how these were implemented. Note information on the Progress out of Poverty Index.
Considers questions regarding medicinal plants with a view to exploring opportunities for productive inclusion of traditional communities. Highlights the importance of bottom-up approaches to policy development and inclues a one-page summary.

Highlights an important means to improve health equity: the growing ability of some developing countries to undertake health innovation.
Call for proposals to conduct a series of case studies to identify factors that contribute to or impede evidence from rigorous impact evaluations to influence policy(deadline is 28 February 2011).
­This database provides policymakers and practitioners with easy access to systematic reviews that examine evidence on the effects of social and economic development interventions in low- and middle-income countries. It draws together systematic reviews from a range of sources and covers all sectors.
Gives twelve examples of leading innovations in family engagement as an integral and effective strategy in systemic education reform.
NDP 2030

The National Development Plan (NDP) aims to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030. According to the plan, South Africa can realise these goals by drawing on the energies of its people, growing an inclusive economy, building capabilities, enhancing the capacity of the state, and promoting leadership and partnerships throughout society. The popular version in all official languages and two-page illustrated versions are also available.


The Presidency has published the National Evaluation Draft Policy Framework for public comment. Comments can be emailed to Dr Ian Goldman at [email protected] by 30 September 2011. For enquiries call Dr Ian Goldman at (012) 308 1918. ­­
Adoption of global strategy on public health, innovation and intellectual property by the World Health Assembly.
Presidency State of the Nation home page with additional information and links.­
Guidelines for public service and local government managers and officials in order to support innovation in their ­respective departments and units.

An open access collection which examines how higher education responds to the demands of the automation economy and the fourth industrial revolution. Considering significant trends in how people are learning, coupled with the ways in which different higher education institutions and education stakeholders are implementing adaptations, it looks at new programs and technological advances that are changing how and why we teach and learn. The book addresses trends in liberal arts integration of STEM innovations, the changing role of libraries in the digital age, global trends in youth mobility, and the development of lifelong learning programs. This is coupled with case study assessments of the various ways China, Singapore, South Africa and Costa Rica are preparing their populations for significant shifts in labour market demands – shifts that are already underway. Offering examples of new frameworks in which collaboration between government, industry, and higher education institutions can prevent lagging behind in this fast changing environment, this book is a key read for anyone wanting to understand how the world should respond to the radical technological shifts underway on the frontline of higher education.

This publication places emphasis on (re)claiming local democratic space as a means of engaging/realising the significance of enabling inclusive democratic practices, which offer value and legitimacy to community realities. Otherwise, these spaces tend to become places of exclusion and narrowness. With the 2016 municipal elections looming in South Afirca, the theme of (re)claiming local democratic space is critical in cultivating a relationship between local citizenries and elected representatives. The papers in this publication share experiences of the manifestations of institutionalized and to a large extent passive local democratic spaces in South Africa, which have often lead to mistrust between different interest groups. Furthermore, the papers advocate for (re)claiming local democratic space through meaningful partnerships, participation, and active citizenry as well as the use of different modalities and technologies to encourage and support the voices of local communities. A recurring theme in the publication is the need for meaningful citizen-state engagement that is cultivated by the role of intermediaries in an attempt to achieve the true nature of democracy #socialinnovation


An open acces monograph which considers how social innovation should be researched. And what should be the relationship between research and action? This piece discusses what can be known about social innovation, how research agendas could evolve and how the study of social innovation fits into the broader picture of research on innovation.

The 20 Year Review synthesis report published in 2014 was informed by several thematic areas. These are regarded as focal areas to tell the story of South Africa’s progress since democracy. The 21 thematic background papers were written by officials in the Presidency and other government departments using research and other evidence to inform progress, sector developments and challenges still remaining. The body of work that went into developing these papers was extensive with the goal of understanding where we came from in order to inform South Africa’s future trajectory.  Each of the thematic papers was based on background papers which are available at the link above.

The latest annual South African Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators publication, launched by the National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI). The report provides aggregated data from various sources to evaluate the state of science, technology and innovation (STI) in South Africa by appraising, among other things, the country's human capital development, research capacity and export performance, and the impact this has on quality of life and wealth creation. The 2014 report focuses mainly on data for the period 2004 to 2014, which allows for a proper trend analysis over a period of time.

The aim of this report is to take up the National Planning Commission’s offer to engage with the National Development Plan Vision 2030. It ams to provide a constructively critical assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the policy proposals of the National Development Plan (NDP) and of the underlying diagnostic studies on which it is based.

The increasing capacity of a growing number of countries in the South is a promising dynamic that signals the beginning of a new era in global development as more and more developing countries embark on the process of industrial catchup, This report focuses on how South-South collaboration can help address key capacity questions faced by developing countries.

Argues that social innovation is a better vehicle for achieving social change than social entrepreneurship or social enterprise.

Assesses the progress made by South African cities over the last decade in relation to key development outcomes and reviews strategic problems and opportunities relating to planning and management­
Reviews the changing patterns of science, and scientific collaboration, in order to provide a basis for understanding such ongoing changes. Aims to identify the opportunities and benefits of international collaboration, to consider how they can best be realised, and to initiate a debate on how international scientific collaboration can be harnessed to tackle global problems more effectively.
Argues that complex challenges confronting Australia require a shift in ­approaches to problem solving and innovation, drawing on all disciplines.
Calls for policies on innovation to recognise cross-sectoral and multi-disciplinary aspects of creativity, including elements of 'culture-based creativity', 'economic' and 'technological innovation.'
A review of Norway's research system in preparation for possible reforms. Based on comparative data from Canada, Denmark, Finland, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Norway.­
Essays from organisations using different methodologies and approaches to generate evidence and influence policy and practice in a number of service areas including criminal justice, childrens' services and poverty reduction.
The first document mapping activities in science, technology and innovation in African countries, for the formulation of policies for science development and the promotion of knowledge-based socio-economic development.
Collates existing research material on the impact of the art and creative industries on Africa’s economy over the last five years.
Assembled collaboratively over the past year by several South African civil society organisations (CSOs), this report scrutinises the country’s track record in fighting corruption, managing diversity, addressing xenophobia and racism, managing elections, consolidating democracy and upholding the rule of law, as well as confronting social exclusion and effective service delivery. ­­
Proposes an approach by which central and local government can encourage local responses to social challenges.
Argues that co-production, where public services are designed and delivered with users rather than ‘to’ and ‘for’ them, is the key to transforming public services.­­
Examines social innovations to find out how they grow and spread, and what can be done to achieve scale. Also read other reports from NESTA.
Discusses barriers to the formulation of innovation policies and indicates what an effective policy should involve.
Maps out some ­approaches used by governments to engage with communities.
The International Journal of Transitional Justice invites submissions for its 2011 special issue, with a 1 April 2011 deadline.­
Citizen participation in policymaking and service design has been debated or attempted, but too infrequently realised. Considers current reform initiatives in the Australian Public Service (APS) and examines the implications of citizen-centric ideals for the processes and structures of government agencies.­
Contrasts two modes of innovation, and makes recommendations on their combined use for improved innovation outcomes.
Discusses the concept of innovation and how it can be applied to local solutions to reduce poverty.
Views on cooperatives as instruments that provide a stake in major economies for communities and create incentives for social cohesion.­
Examines the global state of adolescents, outlines the challenges they face in health, education, protection and participation, and argues that investing in them now is our best hope of breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty and inequity and laying the foundation for a more peaceful, tolerant and equitable world.

Highlights policy innovations including expanded social protection programmes in Africa that are facilitating progress toward at­tainment of the Millennium Development Goals.

An initiative by the South African Institute of Race Relations which aims to track development trends in South Africa, and will be released on a quarterly basis. ­
A report intended as an initial high-level paper to stimulate discussion amongst New Zealand policy advisors and policy makers.­
This analysis provides new understandings of current concepts of 'globalisation', 'use-oriented' research, 'knowledge society and economy', and 'national system of innovation'.

Examines how the SA­ Department of Arts and Culture and some provinces have conceived of and used research in the formulation of arts and culture policy since 1994.

Offers a cross-government approach to ­sustainable growth and improved social welfare. Offers rigorous data and evidence-based analysis for updating policies across government.
Discusses the various dimensions of that sector of the economy in which business enterprises and economic activity seek both to generate revenue while advancing social goals.
This report introduces a unique and unprecedented series of data on the state of capacity in Africa. It also examines key issues and challenges confronting in-country and cross-border capacity development.
The third in a series which discusses what needs to be done further in reaching the MDGs,  an abridged version of a much more comprehensive joint Economic Commission for Africa, African Union Commission, and African Development Bank report.

ICT4griculture refers to the interaction between ICT and agriculture. It describes an emerging field focused on the enhancement of sustainable agriculture, food security, livestock production and rural development through improved information and communication processes. More specifically, ICT4Agriculture involves the conceptualisation, design, development, evaluation and application of innovative ways to use ICTs in the rural domain, with a primary focus on agriculture.The National ICT RDI Roadmap recognises that ICT can support enhanced agricultural production, principally by rendering support to emerging commercial farmers to improve their contribution towards increased food security and agricultural exports, as well as to mitigate environmental impact. This seminar is taking place on 28 September 2015 and is aimed at researchers, policymakers, practitioners.To register for the seminar submit the attached registration form to Ms. Carolina Roscigno  (Email [email protected]  Fax 086 657 4835) or Ms.Lydia Flusk (Email [email protected]  Fax 086 657 4835).

One in a series of policy seminars on IID which aimed to deepen our knowledge and understanding of the various impacts resulting from innovation practices on the nation’s inclusive development efforts and strategies and how we may be able to measure these contributions. It also sought to unpack the criteria to be considered, the pros and cons of each methodology as well as the ethical, logistical and policy considerations.

One in a series of  Innovation for Inclusive Develpment (IDD) policy seminars which aimed to explore challenges that emanate from ambiguities in the way innovation for inclusive development (IID) is defined, conceptualised, studied and understood, both in the global North and South. The aim of the seminar was to unpack the conceptual differences that exist while providing a clear roadmap on the definition, terminologies, understanding and framing of IID as it relates to South Africa’s science technology innovation (STI), development and political ecosystems and contexts.

One in a series of policy seminars on innovation for inclusive development which looked at the role of universities in IID. Universities have been identified as key actors in various innovation and development theories and frameworks such as the National System of Innovation (NSI), “Triple Helix”, political economy, and many others. The seminar examined the role of universities in supporting IID and debated issues such as teaching and learning, capabilities for policy research, capacity development, the production and dissemination of policy-relevant IID research and knowledge.

One in a series of policy seminars on Innovation for Inclusive Development which discussed and shared the lessons learnt from the implementation of the Accelerated Sustainable Water Service Delivery (ASWSD) project which was designed to 'demonstrate how to expedite the provision of reliable safe drinking water (potable water) to underserviced, or unserved, communities living in remote rural areas through the application of science and technology' (Marcelle et al., 2013, p.7). The seminar explored how this and similar government commissioned projects may contribute in ways such as linking formal and informal STI sectors and knowledge sources thus promoting IID, enhancing co-creation, reducing poverty, inequality and unemployment, and providing access to S&T-centric innovation by marginalised rural communities and citizens. Issues of capabilities, scalability (where applicable), sustainability, directionality of innovation, participation, diffusion, learning and policy implications, amongst others, were examined. Please email [email protected] if you would like to receive one of the CSIR presentations (by Ngorima) which is too big to upload.

The first in an ongoing series of seminars on Innovation for Inclusive Development (IID) which drew specifically from the impact of the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission (PICC) resolution to build socio-economic infrastructure through the use of the innovative building technologies (IBT), requiring 60% of government's social infrastructure building to be constructed from IBTs by 2017. The seminar discussed the built environment, using examples such as clinics, schools and student residences, as outlined in the PICC resolution.

The seminar reflected on science engagement in South Africa, against the background of the DST’s new Science Engagement Framework. It included reflection on the broader role of science in society, and on the role of the social sciences in science engagement, including the conceptual and empirical challenges that face researchers and policy-makers. Participants also considered the Science Engagement Framework from the national, international, and developing country perspectives. On this basis, the seminar examined prospects for the implementation of the strategy. Using the Square Kilometre Array telescope as a case study  the seminar examined how the different dimensions of the science engagement debate and actors can work together to successfully implement a science engagement strategy.

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) in collaboration with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA)) hosted a Human and Social Dynamics (HSD) Research Seminar on ‘Public engagement for good governance: the role of the humanities’. The seminar took place on 11 March 2015 at the CSIR Conference Centre in Pretoria. Presentations from the workshop and other documentation can be downloaded above.


The workshop held on 15 November 2013 aimed to draw together researchers in universities and science councils with policy makers in the higher education and innovation spaces. The purpose was to debate the role of knowledge producers in different types of universities and science councils in promoting innovation with marginalised communities. Researchers presented their new work, and all participants debated the policy implications of the emerging evidence. Presentations from the workshop and a policy note can be downloaded above. The full report is available on request by contacting the Policy Action Network.

The workshop aims to draw together researchers in universities and science councils with policy makers in the higher education and innovation spaces. The purpose is to debate the role of knowledge producers in different types of universities and science councils in promoting innovation  with marginalised communities. Researchers will present their new work, and all participants will grapple with the policy implications of the emerging evidence.  Request further presentations and documentations by contacting us through the Policy Action Network website.

Explored policies, measures and mechanisms for promoting innovation to meet development challenges in Africa. Launched an online observatory for African inventions and discoveries, and called for applications. ­
­Presentation providing an overview of the nation­al innovation strategy.
Presentations from meeting which explored how best African countries can harness knowledge to advance their development and to achieve the targets of the Millennium Declaration Goals (MDGs).

Presentation from a seminar which reviewed evidence-based policy-making and the potential role of evaluation as a key, and a systematic, source of evidence. Presented by Dr Ian Goldman, Deputy Director General, Evaluation and Research, DPME,­ The Presidency.­

Workshop report where participants were enabled to apply a knowledge synthesis ­method including: choosing a relevant policy for study, analysing it, performing a literature review (in a way that differs from literature reviews on simple interventions) and organising deliberative processes.
Papers from the CPSI conference which focused on inclusiveness and better access to government services.
Presentation from the Conference on knowledge for Africa's development.
Showcased innovation developments in South Africa and provided a platform for developing an innovation policy dialogue with European partners.
Essays based on a conference which aimed to ­encourage and facilitate debate about the ethical basis for policy making.
This conference worked towards ensuring that research deals with the countries’ health priorities and contributes to equitable development in Latin America.
A community of over 1,000 practitioners managing for development results (MfDR) from 37 different African countries and regions across the world.
An informal, dynamic network of individuals, institutions and funding partners working to support the effectiveness and growth of African arts and culture in civil society and to enhance the sustainability of creative industries in Africa.
Presents findings of five research projects around civil society and strategies for achieving social justice in South Africa.­
If you have some ideas on building a better South Africa, please register for and participate in the National Planning Commission (NPC)­ Jam (an online brainstorming event from noon on 28 September until noon on 1 October). Additional information can also be found here. ­
­A pan-African non-governmental organisation aiming to enhance the development of national cultural policies in the region and their integration in human development strategies through advocacy and promoting information exchange, research, capacity building and cooperation at the regional and international level.
CIPPEC, a leading think tank in Argentina will award 12 scholarships to participate in the third edition of this online training programme developed jointly with Global Development Network (GDN)­ which will start by the end of August 2011.­
Follow events at this open meeting in Dakar, Senegal from 6-11 February.
Download the second issue of the Policy > Action Network newsletter and email [email protected] if you would like to make comments or submissions for the next issue.
A new Facebook forum for a national citizens' dialogue, currently working against xenophobia and planning for ­a National Indaba in September 2010.
The theme 'Promoting good governance through innovative service delivery' is informed by the need for innovative continent-born responses.­ Download the entry form and submit by 31 July.
Recommends new ways of linking science and innovation to development for a more sustainable, equitable and resilient future.
This internship offers outstanding graduate-level students the opportunity to acquire direct exposure to IPC-IG’s work as a global forum for policy dialogue and South-South learning on development innovations.

Consolidation of the State of the Nation and State of the Province addresses prepared by André Viviers, Senior Social Policy Specialist, UNICEF South Africa.

In this first issue of From Evidence to Action for 2012, we look at networks and, specifically, the role they play in changing policy. Our feature article, Getting the most out of policy networks, examines what a network actually is and what makes them effective. Through the example of the Regional Network on Equity in Health in Southern Africa, EQUINET, our case study further explores how to build networks and how they can be used to influence policy. We also find out more about the Policy Action Network, how to manage a Community of Practice. 

Government policy & legislation

NDP 2030

The National Development Plan (NDP) aims to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030. According to the plan, South Africa can realise these goals by drawing on the energies of its people, growing an inclusive economy, building capabilities, enhancing the capacity of the state, and promoting leadership and partnerships throughout society. The popular version in all official languages and two-page illustrated versions are also available.


The Presidency has published the National Evaluation Draft Policy Framework for public comment. Comments can be emailed to Dr Ian Goldman at [email protected] by 30 September 2011. For enquiries call Dr Ian Goldman at (012) 308 1918. ­­
Adoption of global strategy on public health, innovation and intellectual property by the World Health Assembly.
Presidency State of the Nation home page with additional information and links.­
Guidelines for public service and local government managers and officials in order to support innovation in their ­respective departments and units.