The Center for Social Development creates and tests social innovations and then moves evidence into social policy and practice. A social innovation is a new procedure, product, service, program or policy that changes ideas, routines, resource flows and leadership, with the aim of improving the lives of people, communities, nations and the world. Toward this end, CSD has social innovation partners at home and abroad:
It is deeply committed to the Grand Challenges for Social Work Initiative, a project of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare.
Since its founding 20 years ago, CSD has influenced and facilitated the emergence of two sister “CSDs," the Center for Social Development Asia at National University of Singapore and the Centre for Social Development in Africa at University of Johannesburg.
CSD Director Michael Sherraden is WUSTL's leader of the Next Age Institute, an international partnership to study, design and test social innovations. The National University of Singapore and WUSTL established the institute in 2014 to address global challenges facing many families and communities.
History and context
Humans are highly social and highly creative. The progress of civilization rests on massive social innovations in living together peacefully, organizing work of all kinds, establishing rules of conduct, building and passing along knowledge, creating art and shared stories, distributing resources and products, governing fairly and effectively, and promoting health and well-being. In the absence of these social foundations, which are so often taken for granted, human technological and economic advancement would not be possible.
Broad view of social work and social development
In this context, social work and social development are more than helping people and communities experiencing difficulties. To be sure, helping people is fundamental to being human, and we firmly embrace these values and practices. In addition, however, social innovation is about creating new conditions so that certain problems no longer appear and people have greater capacities to resolve challenges they face.
CSD and social innovation
From the outset, CSD has focused its work on design and testing of social innovations in asset building, civic service, productive aging and other areas of applied social research. We have purposefully used knowledge from our research to inform policy and practice. CSD is a kind of R&D (research and development) shop in social matters. In this we have been very fortunate to undertake substantive and meaningful projects, build knowledge and move that knowledge into constructive change in the world.
Until quite recently CSD undertook this work without deep reflection on the vision and strategies that make successes in social innovation possible. In identifying social innovation as a specific area of focus at CSD, we aim to become more purposeful not only in specific research projects, but in thinking about social innovation as a fundamental human endeavor, and how we can learn to do it better.