Organizational Capacity for Continuous Innovation (or, OCCI) is a research project directed by Johanna Mair and Christian Seelos. This research project is currently in its third phase.
Social innovation as a field of practice continues to flourish and expand. Yet central questions of how innovation in social enterprises creates impact are underexplored. How can funders assess and nurture the innovation capacity of social enterprises? How can funders and organizations best make sense of, understand and evaluate problem spaces – the domains in which they intend to create an impact? What role does innovation and scaling play in making progress in such problem spaces? How can social enterprises combine and integrate innovation and scaling in their long-term strategies? How can they identify and eliminate potential innovation pathologies, those factors that make innovation unproductive?
The dimensions and complexities of global social and environmental problems are challenging the ability of social sector organizations to remain relevant. Supporting the ability of organizations to continuously improve their capacities for productive learning, innovating and scaling is therefore a prime mechanism by which funders can contribute to progress.
Findings from OCCI 1.0 and 2.0 suggests that productive decisions about social innovation necessitate a much more critical, realistic, and strategic perspective on organizations than the one we typically encounter.
OCCI 3.0 will focus on refining diagnostic tools to support strategic decision making; understand failure and learning as integral parts of innovation efforts; and determine conditions for success of innovation archetypes and strategies in specific problem spaces.
Once securing the needed funding, the researchers on this decade-long research will be able to work directly with organizations around the world to fine-tune diagnostic tools and then make these tools accessible to funders and operating organizations globally.
Christian Seelos co-leads the OCCI research project at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. He is also the Leo Tindemans Chair on Business Model Innovation and faculty at the Department of Economics and Business at KU Leuven (Belgium) and an academic visitor at Oxford University (UK). Most recently he served as the Director of the IESE Platform for Strategy and Sustainability and a Senior Lecturer in the Strategic Management Department at IESE Business School. He teaches MBA and executive courses in International Business, Global Strategic Management, Social Entrepreneurship and Strategy and Sustainability. Christian researches the interface between organizational strategy and global sustainability including social innovation, new business models for poverty alleviation, climate change and water stress. The Strategic Management Society recognized his recent research on innovative corporate strategies in emerging markets with the Best Paper Award for Practice Implications and also was awarded the Gold Price of the highly contested IFC-FT essay competition on private sector development. He has published widely in peer-reviewed journals in the natural- and social sciences, held managerial positions in the private industry and served as Senior Adviser to the Chairman at the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) where he led inspection and disarmament efforts on biological weapons in Iraq.
Johanna Mair is Professor of Management, Organization and Leadership at the Hertie School of Governance and the Hewlett Foundation Visiting Scholar at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society and the Academic Editor of the Stanford Social Innovation Review. From 2001 to 2011 she served on the Strategic Management faculty at IESE Business School. She has held a visiting position at the Harvard Business School and teaches regularly at the Harvard Kennedy School and INSEAD. Before earning her PhD in Management from INSEAD (France), she was directly involved in executive decision-making in international banking. In 2008 she was recognized as a “Faculty Pioneer” for Social Entrepreneurship Education by the Aspen Institute.
Her research focuses on how novel organizational and institutional arrangements generate economic and social development and the role of innovation in this process. She is the co-editor of three books and has published in leading academic journal. Today, alongside her academic responsibilities, she serves on the Global Agenda Council on Social Innovation of the World Economic Forum and carries out advisory and board work for multinational companies, the United Nations, governments, foundations and social venture funds.
The OCCI research project has produced a several publications that describe key finding of the project.
Efforts by social enterprises to develop novel interventions receive a great deal of attention. Yet these organizations often stumble when it comes to turning innovation into impact. As a result, they fail to achieve their full potential. Here’s a guide to diagnosing and preventing several “pathologies” that underlie this failure.
Originally appeared in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Fall 2016
“It is time to move from innovation as an ideology to innovation as a process.”
Originally appeared in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Fall 2012
It is time to move from innovation as an ideology to innovation as a process—a transition that might be less glamorous but will be more productive. From studying existing research on organizational innovation and from our own research on the subject, we have distilled six recommendations for productive innovation in social sector organizations…
Organizations need the ability to both scale up successful innovations and create new ones, even those that challenge the status quo.
Originally appeared in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Fall 2013
What determines the capacity for continuous innovation in social sector organizations?
The dimensions and complexities of global social and environmental problems are challenging the ability of social sector organizations to remain relevant. Supporting the ability of organizations to continuously innovate is therefore a prime mechanism by which funders can contribute to progress.
Organizational Capacity for Continuous Innovation-Outline of a Research Agenda
The purpose of this report was to make progress in our understanding of how established social sector organizations (SSOs) can build an organizational capacity for continuous innovation (OCCI). The starting point for this agenda was to provide a snapshot of scholarly and also practitioner knowledge as a basis for identifying priority areas for future research.