Our world is constantly changing, in fact, it is driven by change. The only way to keep up is to keep changing with it, finding new, better ways of performing usual tasks, in other words, innovating. There is no doubt that innovation is essential to progress and prosperity of the humankind. Last year, the United Nations included innovation in their global initiative, Sustainable Development Goals (Goal #9 is to ““Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation”). For the majority of people sustainability and decent quality of life are of high importance. However in many countries, including Morocco, acceptable living standards is still unattainable for a significant part of the population. According to recent statistical data, in Morocco the rate of people living in multidimensional poverty is 15,6% (UNDP Morocco), and the unemployment rate is 9,2% (World Bank). For Morocco, with its total population steadily approaching 35 million people, this means that over 5 million people are living in poverty, and over 3 million people at the age of 15 and older are unemployed. Can innovation help Morocco overcome such challenges as poverty and unemployment? Perhaps, if this innovation is of the social kind.
What does social innovation mean particularly for Morocco? Adnane Addioui, the president of the Moroccan Center for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship (Moroccan CISE), defines social innovation as “finding alternative ways to fix social issues, understanding the complexity behind them and thinking of quick and simple ways to provide answers and solutions needed by communities”. Therefore, social innovation has to originate from deep understanding of the Moroccan society and its needs. Further rethinking of traditional approaches to managing those needs can pave the way for innovation and change in the social sphere.
Is Morocco ready for social innovation? Social change in this country comes with its complexities. Last year, Bloomberg included Morocco in the Top-50 index of the world’s most innovative economies, which is already a good sign. On the other hand, Morocco is still a country with deeply-rooted traditions which influence the minds of many of its citizens. Moroccan people have a very unique way of dealing with social issues such as poverty. They have a strong culture of giving to the poor, and take this responsibility seriously and personally. However such traditional thinking sometimes can hinder the progress and close the door to new innovative solutions. Adnane Addioui calls some of Moroccan communities “innovation averse” (analogy of risk averse), and mentions that it is not always easy to change the preset ways and to defend new ideas.
Fostering social innovation and change in Morocco is challenging. Organizations dedicated to promoting social innovation are quite few. For instance, the Moroccan Center for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship facilitates social innovation through finding entrepreneurial solutions to social issues in Morocco. Under the Center’s guidance, several social startups work on tackling specific societal issues (like poverty) and improving livelihoods of disadvantaged people. In fact, social entrepreneurship is one of the best examples of social innovation in practice. The work that social startups do often aligns with the work of numerous NGOs and foundations, however it is innovation that gives entrepreneurs the edge. Startups have the potential to create numerous jobs in local communities and actively participate in the local economy.
There are many ways how socially innovative solutions can improve lives in Morocco and around the world. Social innovation can open borders, bring tolerance and acceptance of new ways and methods. Most importantly innovation can act as a driver of social change. Social innovation will not entirely solve all social issues that exist in Morocco, but it can certainly facilitate the process. In the end, innovation is not just a tool, it is a way of thinking, a philosophy, perhaps, the new philosophy of the XXI century.

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