"if somebody already invented it, you don’t have to"
Simple enough, right?
When I create digital games - inevitably - the moment I show it to a few friends one of them will say, "Oh it's sort of like [game I've never heard of]". Before you rush into full production with a new idea you try to search for games with similar mechanics, but there's no standardized way to do that. There's no hub or database. There's no universal lexicon for what mechanics or even GENRES of games should be called. There's absolutely no good way to know if someone already invented it, and I think there are many parallels in social innovation.
What if someone in the next country over spent hundreds of thousands of
dollars trying to solve exactly the problem you're tackling now? How
would you know? If you're lucky you'll be talking to people in a similar field, and perhaps one of them will have heard about it, but in places of limited interconnectivity, we need to do better.
Here are the issues to address - 1. No standardized or universally acceptable "database" of case studies, methodologies, or technologies.2. No standardized or universally accepted lexicon of terms or 'tags' to describe said projects.
One without the other isn't going to fix the problem, but combined, there's potential. Issue 1
is just a question of setting up the database and getting people to use it - advertising, marketing, and reaching critical mass. Making it useful enough that people want to continue, and accessible enough that it's useful. (Maybe using some of the White House's Social Innovation
budget? :O :D)Issue 2
there seems to be some slight headway in. Stanford's Social Innovation reviews
uses terms similar to those on EVOKE - Social Governance, Policy, Fundraising, etc. These are good broad categories. We'd also want location, cost, #participants, and sub-categories for the issue addressed. Tags for the resources used. The amount of time it took. Who headed the project.
We'd also need a way to teach people the system/lexicon - I know I've had some research projects where all I needed to find on a seemingly obsolete topic was the magic 'keyword' that everyone in the know used, and suddenly my google search results went soaring. There's even a chance that a database like this already exists - and I just couldn't figure out the right term to find it.
Either way, that's my take on "if somebody already invented it, you don’t have to" - we need to be able to know what somebody else invented to know not to repeat it.
I really like the move that you suggest to help with that secret. I also personally think that having databases of already done projects and works would save on the time that we spend trying to come up with solutions to problems that have already been created by others.
Am looking at it from a programmer's point of view; but I know it works even on real life situations. We as programmers spend a lot of time trying to come up with applications that we may think are our own invention - or those that work similar to those that we have seen and admired somewhere else. This usually takes up a lot of our time and unfortunately we don't usually come up with better solutions.
Additionally, if possible, the databases of already completed projects and innovations should have the behind-the-scenes attempts and ideas to the problems or solutions. I hope this makes sense!
But I also think that Chelsea may have already hit upon the solution - talking to people. Lots of people. What if we had a network of experts and non-experts around the world who had their ear to the ground and their eyes open to new ways of new doing things. What if EVOKE is the solution?
Living people are excellent, and I think EVOKE should definitely be at the forefront, but establishing a collection of the history of social innovation, something tangible and organized that can always be referenced, would be a pretty invaluable resource in and of itself methinks. Plus, I know as a member of EVOKE that if I was in charge of remembering a certain subset of Social Innovation information, I'd definitely write it down. That's what these blog posts are supposed to be, right? So why not have a coherent and standardized way to organize the information for easier processing and look up? :)