Innovation from the Margins: 6 Ways to Promote Social Inclusion

1. Build inclusive alternatives during disruptive moments of change

Our Just Urban Economies Program is leveraging disruptive change in marginalized communities.  Tapping existing assets and networks, we experiment, learn, and co-create with local leaders to build models that shift decision-making power from the few to the many and enable shared wealth-creation.

the Bronx Fordham corridor, an area that exemplifies many of places of hopeful contradictions where the vision for economic transformation is real.

the Bronx Fordham corridor, an area that exemplifies many of places of hopeful contradictions where the vision for economic transformation is real.

2.  Accelerate social innovation

In countries across the Americas, centuries of racial exclusion and extraction have produced severe social and economic marginality – as well as great social leadership and innovation. CoLab’s Inclusive Regional Development Program works with local innovators and entrepreneurs in Colombia’s Afro-majority Pacific Region. We are helping to build capacity for collective leadership and innovation, support values-based entrepreneurship, and strengthen the unique models derived from the rich patrimony and specific context of the territory.

Tech innovation lab in Buenaventura, Colombia

Tech innovation lab in Buenaventura, Colombia

 3. Use finance as a tool to address societal challenges

As intermediaries in our economic system, banks and other financial institutions define our future. Their investment decisions determine which ideas, projects, and businesses will operate in the future and which will not. Economic democracy and the shift towards a more just and equitable society require a shift in how money is used, and where money is held. CoLab’s Just Money Program, in collaboration with the Presencing Institute, enables knowledge sharing, leadership development, capacity-building, and network-building via the Leadership Academy with the Global Alliance on Banking with Values (GABV).  GABV is a global network of banks that use finance to solve social, environmental, and other challenges.  Our Just Money MOOC has engaged more than 15,000 participants to learn about socially innovative finance.  

Members of the GABV Leadership Academy mapping challenges and opportunities in their work,  Photo by Dayna Cunningham

Members of the GABV Leadership Academy mapping challenges and opportunities in their work, Photo by Dayna Cunningham

4. Create a network of social justice leaders

In many communities across the Americas, effective and innovative leaders are already doing impactful work to drive economic inclusion and self-determination. With mounting global challenges, leaders seek opportunities to imagine more proactive visions for the future—and more comprehensive and citizen-engaged strategies for improving material conditions in communities. CoLab’s Mel King Community Fellows (MKCF) Program offers a space for leaders to connect with each other and MIT, reflect, and create prototypes exploring innovative solutions for more inclusive and democratic economies.   

Mel King Fellows 2016-2018

Mel King Fellows 2016-2018

5. Drive social change through arts, culture + awareness-based practices

CoLab connects with artists to explore ways that aesthetic practice and the urban planning discipline can collaborate to inform, influence, and more effectively address poverty, social inequality, and environmental injustice. We work with awareness-based practices that help promote empathy and elevate group consciousness and move to collective action. Community engagement, informed by artists’ process and practices, can inspire generative dialogue and storytelling that help magnify and inform community voice, cultivate empathy, connect community members in their struggles, and pave the way towards a more just and sustainable future. The values alignment that comes from spiritual and cultural grounding rooted in marginalized communities creates powerful pathways for generative change.   

The Fundred Project is based on a currency created via children’s artwork. Fundred demonstrates the value of healthier communities, lead-safe homes, and the imagination of all children

The Fundred Project is based on a currency created via children’s artwork. Fundred demonstrates the value of healthier communities, lead-safe homes, and the imagination of all children

6. Enable community media

Media plays a critical role in strengthening people’s ability to participate and determine the future of their communities. Through CoLab Radio, we highlight community changemakers and prioritize the often-overlooked genius, experiences and solutions of communities on society’s margins. We collaborate with community partners to experiment with participatory media-based tools and strategies that aid stakeholders to investigate, understand in new ways, and take action on key challenges in their cities and neighborhoods.

Learn more about CoLab’s work to innovate from the margins

Anti-displacement event in Boston

Anti-displacement event in Boston