Cultural, Geopolitical, and Structural Barriers to Social Innovation

by Heather MacCleoud, Ph.D.


Cultural, geopolitical, and structural barriers prevent many social innovation initiatives from achieving their desired impact. These barriers include social pressures, regulatory burdens, lack of resources (funding, people, knowledge), and inequitable power structures. Fortunately, there are many ways to overcome these barriers – including judicious engagement with higher education. In order to build a world where “everyone is a changemaker,” Ashoka has hosted an annual changemaker education research forum (CERF). Ashoka’s 2022 CERF was designed to create the conditions for deeper collaboration and knowledge-sharing amongst the Changemaker network and beyond. This paper is an overview of one of the streams (areas of inquiry) presented at CERF 2022 and enhanced throughout this issue of the Social Innovations Journal (SIJ). The focus of this stream was Cultural, Geopolitical, and Structural Barriers to Social Innovation. The research was focused on three interrelated areas: education and responsible knowledge production, international perspectives and development, and finally, the complicated relationship between social innovations at the local vs. global level.

By Susan Sanning
Susan Sanning Associate Dean and Director of Civic Education & Innovation