The Most Dynamic Social Innovation Initiatives of 2013 - Insights

The Most Dynamic Social Innovation Initiatives of 2013


5 minute read

One of my favorite parts about the holiday season is the opportunity to look back and reflect on all of the new people, initiatives, and ideas I encountered throughout the year. From Malala’s incredible journey to the rise of Giving Tuesday, 2013 had no shortage of inspiring social innovators and campaigns. Below are my picks for this year’s social innovation highlights.

Fastest Growing Social Movement: Giving Tuesday
Giving Tuesday may have been born in 2012, but it came alive in a big way in 2013, with over 10,000 partners from over 40 countries participating. You probably noticed, since #GivingTuesday was trending on Twitter for 10 hours straight on December 3 and the hashtag was used over 700 times per minute. Those are impressive numbers, but the most important stat is this: online giving on Giving Tuesday was up 90% compared to the year before. That means thousands of nonprofit organizations are now empowered to better serve their communities. Hats off to Henry Timms and Aaron Sherinian, the 92Y and the UN Foundation for turning Giving Tuesday into a full-fledged global movement!

Ad With An Impact: Unilever
This year, we saw a huge rise in advertising focused on social good. One of my favorites is Unilever’s “Why Bring a Child Into This World?” campaign. The short video follows real-life pregnant couples as they share their doubts, fears, and hopes about bringing a new baby into the world. The couples then watch a video explaining how new technology will make their children’s lives healthier, longer, and safer. With over 8 million views on YouTube, it’s clear that the message resonated.  It was a powerful way to bring attention to Project Sunlight, Unilever’s global sustainability platform.

Runner-up: Chipotle does it again with a poignant and powerful video. If you missed it, take a look.
Inspiring UnConference: Spark Camp
One of my favorite weekends this year was spent at camp—Spark Camp that is! With its focus on working groups and story-telling, round table conversations, and fascinating people (journalists, film producers, authors, etc.), the event is unlike any conference I’ve attended. Spark Camps focus on a range of topics, but one thing they have in common is a total absence of hierarchy. There aren’t keynote speakers or panelists, just a diverse group of 60 awesome people who approach the experience as equals and come out of it much wiser. And the best part, the folks that founded Spark Camp, have just released their manifesto: How to Build an Event that Matters More
Game Changing Idea: Giving is the New Getting
When I read the New York Times Magazine piece “Is Giving the Secret to Getting Ahead?”, I was so intrigued that I invited NY Times Magazine reporter Susan Dominus and University of Pennsylvania Professor Adam Grant to join me for  #CSRchat.  Adam’s research shows that in business, people who give the most (for authentic reasons) tend to be the most successful.  His research has powerful implications for the workplace—and provides strong data points about why companies should focus on hiring generous people and promoting skills-based employee engagement in the community.

Boldest Leaders: Malala & Shiza
The amazing Malala Yousafzai has invigorated a movement in support of girls’ education through her bravery, eloquence, and determination. This year’s #iammalala campaign generated hundreds of millions of tweets and a swell of support for The Malala Fund. Behind all of that support Is another incredible woman, the brilliant Shiza Shahid, CEO of the Malala Fund. Shiza met Malala several years ago, and joined forces with her this year to create The Malala Fund and continue to build a movement in support of girls’ education.

Most Refreshing Nonprofit: Beespace
Beespace is a nonprofit incubator, a program that provides office space, community, professional resources, and programming to early-stage nonprofit organizations—all at no cost. Similar incubators exist for startups, and Beespace seeks to bring the same sort of value to nonprofit organizations looking to grow. The Beespace office currently provides space for 6 amazing nonprofits including The Adventure Project and the Malala Fund in NYC, but my hunch is that this is the beginning of a national trend.

Coolest Community:The Li.St
With the popularity of Lean In, 2013 brought new energy and urgency into conversations around gender equality in the workplace. The, a visibility platform for women, is committed to changing the ratio—increasing visibility and opportunity for women and other underrepresented constituencies across fields. As a member of’s network, I’ve seen first-hand how this community has transformed women’s lives by giving them a platform to transform one another, and shine visibility on the each other’s successes.’s newsletter offers a fresh, spunky take on the issues and topics that impact women today.  Founded by Rachel Sklar and Glynnis MacNicol, there is an exciting future ahead for this network.

Inspiring Show of Strength: One Fund Boston
After the tragic Boston Marathon bombings, the world showed incredible support for the victims of the attack, with millions of dollars in donations coming in to the One Fund Boston. The story behind the One Fund is an incredible example of collaboration in moments of tragedy. Mayor Menino and Governor Patrick were brainstorming ways to help victims after the attack, and called on Boston-based businesses John Hancock and ad agency Hill Holliday to help. Within seven hours, the team worked together to create the fund and campaign from scratch—complete with logo, website, and donation mechanisms in place.

I could go on an on as there were many more uplifting and creative social innovations throughout the year, but let’s her from you. Tweet me at @susanmcp1 to tell me your favorite social innovations of 2013. And join me in keeping an eye out for what’s sure to be huge in 2014: Alex Bogusky’s first Collaborative Marketplace, the continued growth of Yerdle, Zady and TOM’s (Shoes) Marketplace, along with Girl Rising’s expansion into India and parts of Africa.