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Sunday, January 24, 2021

Bacon Bits: Social innovation

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Last week’s Bacon Bits talked about the innate creativity and ingenuity that Black people possess. This week, we will talk about how creativity and ingenuity impact social innovation.

Social innovation is the process of developing and deploying effective solutions to challenge systemic and environmental issues in support of social/economic upward mobility. Two aspects of social innovation are described as sustainable and disruptive.

Sustainable innovation improves existing products. It does not create new markets but develops existing ones with better value. For instance, when organizations expand their marketing efforts to include additional modalities, like social media, to help improve effectiveness.

Disruptive innovation is an idea that significantly affects the way a market or industry functions. An example of modern disruptive innovation is the internet, which significantly altered the way companies do business, and furthermore, negatively impacted companies that were unwilling to adopt it.

Curtis Mayfield, a musician, singer and songwriter whose art was most prevalent during the turbulent times of the Civil Rights Movement, was considered a forward-thinking innovator. Curtis used the impulses of his music and content of his lyrics to help inform and instruct the Black community during a transformational point of American history.

We can’t compare this COVID-19 pandemic to the Civil Rights Movement, however, the relevancy of Curtis Mayfield’s music still rings true today as we are battling some of the same challenges of institutional racism, social disparities, and poverty.

“People get ready, there’s a train coming

You don’t need no baggage; you just get on board

All you need is faith to hear the diesels humming

You don’t need no ticket you just thank the lord”

The train we all need to board right now is social innovation. We are in a challenging landscape that demands forward thinkers. There are many individuals and groups in the city doing great work. People are understanding that this is the time to be audacious and be bold in our thinking and approach to how we support our community.

Organizations such as Edna Martin Christian Center are innovating and deploying strategies to meet the changing needs of our communities.

Edna Martin Christian Center, located in the Martindale-Brightwood community, recognized a developing need during COVID-19 and led an effort to support the seniors in their community. Most elderly Black people don’t have the means to afford senior living homes.

Edna Martin Christian Center implemented a plan to keep the seniors in their neighborhoods fed and connected amidst isolation. Tawnya McCrary, director of operations at Edna Martin Christian Center, explained, “We are currently going door to door and connecting our neighbors in need with resources to help support them during this time.”

They are also meeting neighbors and doing a needs assessment on the Martindale side of Martindale-Brightwood. Each household that responds is receiving a gift card for groceries at Meijer.

Eskenazi Health made the decision to transition many of their outpatient appointments to virtual appointments as a result of COVID-19. Dr. Curtis Wright, a Black man and CEO of Eskenazi Medical Group, explains, “Many of our patients have enjoyed the convenience and access to our providers through these virtual visits. Moving forward, Eskenazi Health expects to incorporate more telehealth tools into the care of patients and congruently expand our ability to reach patients better.”

Then, there are organizations such as Halo App who have created an interesting solution to help curb the detrimental behavior of predatory lending that has exponentially affected the Black community. The Halo App provides a peer lending model that connects lenders and borrowers for loans up to $1,000. Taylor Simpson, founder and CEO at the Halo App, describes how this piece of innovation in lending is direly important as many individuals, at times, just need a little help to get by. “The Halo App is all about helping people help people — we are creating a space that removes the barrier of entry, mitigates financial risk and provides aid to those directly needing assistance.” This is a great example of sustainable innovation.

We don’t have the luxury to not innovate. When your community faces a pandemic that perpetuates your plight and worsens your condition, then you must respond with modernized ideas and strategies. Social innovation will help meet the current need and address issues of historical neglect. The task is to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself and social innovation is key to our ability to break the cycle of poverty in our community. 

Alan Bacon is a humanity advocate, community leader, musician and innovator. Contact him at alankeithbacon@gmail.com.

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