What is "Social Innovation"?

“A social innovation is a novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just than current solutions. The value created accrues primarily to society rather than to private individuals.”

Stanford Social Innovation Review

Social Innovation is designed to help you understand and develop viable solutions to pressing social and environmental problems. There are many approaches to addressing societal concerns including governmental policy and social activism. Social Innovators engage these sectors but also utilize the entrepreneurial practices of the business sector to build solutions that are self-sustaining and scalable and are not dependent on charitable contributions or government funding.

Examples of Social Innovation

Circular Economy


Microfinance is a social innovation that brings financial services to low-income individuals or to those who do not have access to typical banking services.

Kiva Logo     Grameen Bank Logo



One-for-One business models are those where for each product a consumer buys, a second identical product is donated to a charitable cause. Toms Shoes was a pioneer, but now many products and communities are innovating with the approach.

Toms     One for One Example


Base of the Pyramid Products

Many social innovators are developing products or services that address the needs of low-income or marginalized communities. LifeStraw, for example, is a cheap, portable water purifier that serves communities without access to clear water.

Lifestraw Logo


Mason's Pop-Up Pantry

Established in December 2014, the Patriot Pantry provides food, clothes, toiletries, and school supplies to George Mason University students, staff and faculty in need.

Patriot Pantry is supplied by donations from students, registered student organizations, George Mason University academic departments and offices, and local community members.

Accessing the pantry is completely confidential. Please set an appointment by emailing pantry@gmu.edu.