Social innovation from the inside out
  • We are excited to share this talk that Warren gave last month at University of Cape Town exploring the organizational dimensions of social innovation.

    In our experience, few social purpose organizations spend much time looking at how their own organizational cultures support or hinder the kinds of changes in the world they are working so hard to create. In this talk, Warren challenges us to consider how much of our current difficulty in fostering and scaling social innovation is bound up in this disconnect. What kind of change might we create if we took our organizational practices more seriously as leverage points for social innovation?


    (FOR THOSE WITH LOW BANDWIDTH: Try viewing it through Project Feather, the no-frills version of YouTube. Go to (and then type in “Social Innovation From the Inside Out” in the search bar at the top of the page) 



    This next video clip contains highlights from the Q & A session, which digs into some of the sub-themes of the talk…




    May 13th, 2012 | Warren Nilsson & Tana Paddock | 11 Comments

About The Author

Warren Nilsson & Tana Paddock

Click here to learn more about Tana & Warren

11 Responses and Counting...

  • Anonymous 05.13.2012

    Thanks Rennie, (what’s a respectful way of calling you by the way?)

    that’s fantastic! You’re really into something. The powerful simplicity of reflecting to care, to innovate, and to subvert institutions within us made me think of other organizational shifts — and of a number of failures.

    I know you work by building the whole idea in your mind before writing. But it really stats looking like a book,

    Happy to write you, Gui.

  • Thanks, Gui! We were excited at the local response to the talk here in Cape Town and are curious to see how it travels by video. And yes, a book is in the works! A few years away perhaps, as I’d like to include some of the experiments we are starting to develop in South Africa, but it’s certainly one of our goals. Hope things are going well with you. Let us know when you feel like writing something (or podcasting, videoing, etc.) for Organization Unbound! Cheers, Ren

  • Warren and Tana,
    Have you heard of the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA)? There are a number of places where your ideas and ICA’s connect. There is an ICA in South Africa, as well as about 30 other countries in the world.

    ICA has worked with participatory, whole system development in communities and organizations for more than 40 years, using many similar principles, and also embodying the principles in our own way of operating.

    There will be a global conference in Nepal this fall. You might be interested in it.

  • Hi Jo, yes, I know it from the workshop I took with you a number of years back, which is why I’ve kept you on our radar, but as I re-read through your site, I’m realizing that there is definitely an even stronger alignment than I originally thought. Thank you for letting us know about the upcoming conference in Nepal. I’m reticent to do much carbon-intensive plane traveling, but will give it some serious thought. I noticed that CDRA is going to be there. Do you know if a future ICA annual gathering is being planned in South Africa or nearby any time soon?

  • This is an amazing talk, Tana and Rennie. It resonates deeply with me as an entrepreneur who functions at the intersection of action and thoughtfulness. I loved Rennie’s statement – “the institutions we are trying to shift are in the room.” That is profound, empowering, encouraging.

    I thought I entered a comment a few days ago when I watched this but I realize I did not complete the process.

    Now I see why i am drawn to you guys. You speak my heart. I think this applies in business as in any other domain. This is prompting me to dig further into your writings. I am now reading the spiritual architecture of organizations and this jumped out at me from the first page, “He is drawn to searching for connections where the rest of us see boundaries.”

  • Thanks, Tolu. I like “the intersection of action and thoughtfulness” – we need to Googlemap that ;-). And I am also very curious about how the “institutions in the room” play out in terms of Zenith Cleaners or ResurgeAfrique.

  • Take this to TED. Immediately! Very provocative!

  • Thanks for your encouraging words! Would looove to take this to TED. We’ll being doing a TEDx in Cape Town in a few weeks, which means we’ll have a shorter version that we could then submit to TED. So we’re working on it : )

  • Wow! I loved this talk. Why? Because it resonated strongly with me. In recent years, I’ve been exploring, experimenting with the Gandhi dictum of be the change we want to see in the world. I wonder what this means in substance, in practice. I listened to Warren and kept thinking: “Ahhh, these people get it!!!!” Three aspects/dimensions stood out to me: (1) I think the quote: “The institutions that we are trying to shift are in the room, here with us right now” captures the essence of this experiential approach. What are organizations and institutions made up of? PEOPLE. Thus, our institutions and organizations reflect and manifest (display) what is alive within us. Changing the external/macrol requires working with the internal/micro. Rah!!!! (2) In my pursuit to understand more deeply what ‘be the change’ means, my focus has landed on rooting social change in what I call the Art of Awareness. Listening to the stories in this talk – of the school, of the village, was affirming for me. These stories illustrated the value of holding spaces to work with our awareness – awareness of self, surroundings and dynamics. But – as Warren stresses (and the stories confirm) – awareness alone (sharing, expressing and feeling better/good) isn’t enough – we need to take action to create shifts that allow us to break down what’s not serving us well and build what will serve us well. This is an iterative and cyclical process – involving constant work/attention and constant awakenings over and over again (3) I also really valued the clarity in talking about FORM – about how we’ve become beguiled by working with form over substance. YES!!!

    I have tons more I would like to write and share – but this isn’t the space to do it. I will simply conclude by saying “Thank you!” This talk and OrgUnbound’s overall analysis/approach leaves me feeling energized, inspired and optimistic.

    With gratitude and metta.

  • Thank you so much Veena for sharing your reactions and connections. Sorry for not responding sooner…for some reason our comment system didn’t automatically notify me of your comment as it should. It sounds like you’ve done lots of thinking and experimenting with this social change from the inside out theme. We’re always looking for examples of what this looks like in practice in an organizational/collective contexts. If you can think of any examples that you’ve personally experienced or observed that you’d be keen on sharing with us, we’d love that. I can be reached at

  • Having immersed myself in neurobiology and mindfulness perspectives on change, this talk offers a wonderful and practical way to how we can shift-in-the-moment. Thank you for sharing this – it’s super important. Hannah du Plessis

Leave a Reply





* Name, Email, and Comment are Required

kurumsal reklam