The road to Social Innovation in Lebanon

The road to Social Innovation in Lebanon

What is Social Innovation? And how can it play a role in Mediterranean areas?

Social Innovation (SI) is a process or concept that has significant potential for rejuvenating rural Mediterranean areas. It can contribute to reversing land abandonment, increase competitiveness, secure jobs and re-establishing services in remote rural areas.

In Lebanon, the concept of SI ecosystems is just emerging as successful starting points at the beginning of the road. In time, it is hoped that the concept will be defined as a key part in the Lebanese policy.

“Current Lebanese laws don’t include social innovation as a defined state of social development”, said Bassam Al Kantar, a human rights and environmental activist in Lebanon. Public authorities have a key role to play in ensuring local development and community-based innovations will contribute to fulfilling the Social Development Goals (SDGs) through improving the social well-being of local communities.

Marginalized rural areas in Lebanon will benefit from the solutions to challenges that SI concepts will bring. SI is also set to re-invent the role of the rural areas and their capacity to innovate. However, SI in marginalized rural areas in Lebanon is still to be defined and contextualized within the Lebanese context.

Kantar affirmed that community-based SI is grounded in community needs and aims to achieve a positive change for the community and particularly its most vulnerable members. Any work within a specific community should consider its cultural values and base any intervention on them.

From this, SI must be based on the unique values of each community and aim to preserve them. It is hoped that SI projects will mobilize the resources of the community for the greater benefit of its members.

To increase the capacity of SI in marginalized rural areas, we need to consider creating Social Innovation Observatory (SIO) to improve the adaptive capacity of SI projects.

By decentralizing funding opportunities, communities will be able to leverage the ability of SI to boost local economies of different sectors. At the micro level, we need to provide legal and financial mechanisms to institutionalize SI as a process of local development and social equity and wellness.

A legal framework is also vital in order to enable SI to benefit from access to finance and acquire tax incentives. In addition, SI should exist in the ecosystem place and be introduced in schools and universities.

Finally, and most importantly, we need to learn from international best practices, adapting the local context and increasing awareness on Social Innovation.

Based on the mentioned recommendations, we anticipate SI to be integrated into policy down the road and become a flagship for Lebanese rural sustainability in the future.

Blogpost by Jana Al Jawhary