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Eight common innovation traps

By Gabriel Kasper & Justin Marcoux, Stanford Social Innovation Review |

Innovation, it seems, is easier said than done.

Despite growing interest in applying innovation methodologies to social sector challenges over the past decade, more often than not, philanthropic efforts to support innovation fall short.

That’s because the processes, strategies, and structures that funders need to deliberately seek out and support innovation are often quite different from the ones they use for traditional grantmaking—a lesson many funders learn the hard way.

In our SSIR article “The Re-Emerging Art of Funding Innovation” last year, we highlighted many specific approaches that innovation funders are now using. But we find that many grantmakers still end up falling into one or more “innovation traps”—common mistakes that can prevent them from succeeding as they try to find and fund breakthrough social change.

Some of these traps are challenges related to execution and implementation; others are more conceptual, rooted in the way organizations think about what innovation is and what it can achieve. As you read through the eight common innovation traps below, ask yourself whether your organization has faced one or more of these problems, and consider sharing your experience in the comments.

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