Social innovation is a recently coined term which ECLAC has been working on since 2004. This project could confirm that the region is an “explosion” of social innovation as a response from communities, organizations of civil society and the government at different levels, to social problems that could not be solved with traditionally used models. It has been a key factor in improving the conditions of living for the people in the region, and without a doubt, it has contributed to the progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
ECLAC defined social innovation as new ways of management, administration and execution, new instruments or tools, new combinations of factors oriented to improve the social and living conditions of the people of the region in general. An essential factor in the emergence of social innovation was undoubtedly the active participation of the community, from the definition of the problem that is hoped to solve, identification of possible alternatives of solution and their execution and monitoring. It is crucial that innovative models have better cost-benefit ratio than traditional ones, and moreover, they should be scalable, sustainable and possible to transform into programs and public policies that could affect greater groups of the population.
Without a doubt, social innovation initiatives have contributed to the generation of income of the most vulnerable groups of the population such as the famers (both, men and women) in Haiti. They also have incremented school-enrollment rates and decreased drop-out rates in geographically secluded places like Northern Potosí in Bolivia. They have reduced maternal mortality rates in some places including rural areas in Northeastern Brazil. Visualization of domestic violence could be achieved in substantial parts of the Peruvian Andean territory thanks to the female community advocates, women from the same community who were once educated through a course supporting their friends and neighbors.