Today at 9 am, the Social Innovation Symposium will be held at the Davis Odd Fellows Hall. Social innovation is defined as “new ideas (products, services and models) that meet social needs and create social relationships, enhancing society’s capacity to act.”
On Friday, the Vanguard spoke with Pastor Bill Habicht, one of the organizers of the symposium, and Keeva Kase, who flew in from Durham, North Carolina.
Mr. Habicht explained, “This builds into the ongoing innovation ecosystem conversation that began last year.” They have looked into networking through JumpStart Davis and the co-working space at Pollinate Davis. He said, “My area is addressing social issues. The innovation mind set plays a critical role to moving our city and region forward.”
“The intent behind the symposium is to hear from people that have experience or knowledge of social innovation,” he explained. “It’s more than just coming up with innovative solutions but it’s also innovative approaches and how you tackle problems, structure, processes, things like that.”
He said he wants the conversation to start here in Davis and create a new facet in Davis and help “differentiate ourselves from anyone else.”
The event will have three presenters, one from San Francisco, one from Sacramento and Keeva Kase from Durham.
The event features Roshen Sethna, the program manager for Exygy, “a certified B-corp dedicated to designing exceptions software for the world leading change makers”; Keeva Kase, the executive director of the Durham based Bull City Forward,” a social innovation center that seeks to increase the creation and scale of innovations for the greater good”; and Tammy Vallejo, found of e49corp, “a spirit led movement that exists to connect, resource and mobilize organization into collaborative response to critical needs in the region.”
Each of the speakers will give a short speech and there will be a panel discussion asking questions and allowing a conversation.
Keeva Kase explained that he reached out to a blogger who is a consultant to congregations throughout the world. He said he was interested in looking toward the church and its place in the social justice movement.
He explained that this represents “what I believe the Gospel to be. I felt that the church has kind of fallen off of that.” Through this conversation he got in touch with Bill Habicht in Davis.
Mr. Kase said that he felt like “I could bring some experience out here and share what’s happening in Durham and the triangle reason, and what I’m beginning to see trending out to communities across the country.” He said, “I’m excited to see what’s happening in Davis.”
Keeva Kase is seeing an explosion in downtown Durham “where there was 15 years ago very little going on in downtown Durham – a very different place from what I’ve seen at least from my two hours in Davis, my first time here.” He said there have been great investments by the universities and the Research Triangle Park.
“In Durham we have a big tech organization – it’s a co-working facility, but really it’s its own ecosystem – called the American Underground. They house some of Durham’s most important and up and coming companies and entrepreneurs including one of our most recent fellows, Mati Energy Drinks, which just came out here and brought home another 100 thousand owners from Google .”
“Across the board in Durham, there’s a lot of energy around innovation and entrepreneurship,” he said. “However, however, Durham is also historically the home of ‘black Wall Street.’ It was the richest ‘black’ city in the country.”
He cited the North Carolina Law Review late in 2014: “Professor Jones wrote about how the institutions that black farmers and mechanics were forced to develop because they couldn’t get money. They were able to pool their resources and create NC Mutual Mechanics and Farmer Bank, these began to flourish and became the largest black owned financial institutions in the world.”
“So successful were they that Jim Crow almost had no real relevance to their lives,” he said. “As the tales have turned a little bit in Durham, the black community and I would say the Durham community is beginning to see some tensions rise around this – I think it’s because of gentrification. I’m hopeful the mayor of our city, who has been there 12 years now, will continue to be a vocal advocate for the people of Durham as the changes occur and advocate for the greater good of Durham.”
As Davis moves forward with a potential new vision, the lessons of Durham may apply here as well.
“Imagine what you want and call for people to share their imagination,” Keeva Kase suggested. “Craft a shared vision, a vision that includes folks from different areas of your community. When you have that vision, I would suggest you tackle that vision with purpose, with a mission that everybody understands and articulate and with goals that people can see being achieved over a reasonable time line.”
He warned – as some have on the Vanguard – that “it can turn into jargon very quickly.” Mr. Kase said, “You want to back up what you’re saying with action, content, with meaning.”
Bill Habicht had mentioned that so far in their endeavors they have not gotten pushback yet in creating things like JumpStart and Pollinate Davis. Mr. Kase warned, “I think that you will. You’re an intellectual town, people will say you’re throwing around this phrase ‘triple bottom line’ what does that mean? Explain that to me.”
“Rightfully so,” he said about pushback on phrases like “innovation park,” “Because I think words matter. You want your lexicon to be sound. I think that people are quick to adopt ‘corporate social responsibility,’ ‘green,’ the latest fade in making yourself appear to be an ethical and purpose-driven enterprise. People are quick to adopt because ultimately it doesn’t affect your financial bottom line.”
He argued that when Coca-Cola is introduced at the Skoll World Forum in Oxford as a big partner in the social entrepreneurship movement, “we have to ask ourselves, what does it mean to be a social enterprise? I think that’s an important question.” He said, “Maybe the tent is too big, maybe it’s not big enough. But I think you will get pushback in an intellectual community, what do you mean by that?”
Mr. Kase referenced an article from 2003 by Wayne Norman and Chris MacDonald, “Getting to the Bottom of ‘Triple Bottom Line.’” In it they note that almost all major corporations pay at least lip service to “social responsibility” and that a “substantial percentage of the major corporations are now issuing annual reports on social and/or environmental performance”
They write, “We find controversy not in these assumptions, but in the promises suggested by the 3BL rhetoric.”
Mr. Kase said, “They said what is novel about the concept is unsound. And what is unsound about the concept is not novel.”
Bill Habicht told the Vanguard, “I think we will get some pushback, however, depending on whose involved with this and leading this, hopefully its people that have track records already and have some public trust going into it.”
“Pushback always happens when the issues are close to people’s hearts,” he said. He noted that his congregation gets pushback all the times on issues like homelessness. They will try to listen as carefully as possible but ultimately “that’s what leadership is. Listen but you still move from a place of values when you’re making your decisions. Not everyone’s going to be thrilled with this, but that’s what leaders do.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting