The Launch of the IS Foundation: A Model of Social Innovation

Guest post by Andrea McArthur

IS FoundationA remarkable model of social innovation has been taking over the Twitterverse and blogosphere and has motivated networks of environment-minded people to create meaningful change. That movement is the launch of the IS Foundation, founded by Ian Somerhalder (Lost, The Vampire Diaries).

What makes the launch of the IS Foundation so remarkable is the self-organizing of support networks that has been taking place online in order to address all of the complex components that are involved with protecting the environment. Below we look at the Foundation’s pre-launch activity using some of the core components of social innovation. This shows how the IS Foundation is a model for other nonprofits and volunteers to follow to achieve their goals for protecting the environment.

Read on to discover more about the IS Foundation and learn how to “team up to become a united spirit for change.”

Complexity – According to the Social Innovation Generation, one feature of social innovation is complexity, whereby “subtle rules of engagement, between and among elements, gives initiatives a life of their own.” This typically starts where a problem reaches a tipping point, motivating a leader to act. For Ian Somerhalder, this tipping point was the aftermath of the BP oil spill in his home state of Louisiana. His involvement in the cleanup and subsequent PSAs motivated environmentally conscious people, including his fan base, to act.

In his interview with Vampire-Diaries.net Ian stated:  “Rather than be Generation Extinction, the youth of today could become Generation Green. Our mission strives to transform – with every willing person, organization and government body – our destructive relationship with our planet into one that is a true symbiotic relationship.”

Building Relationships – Ian’s influence secured support for the launch from powerful online communities of fans of his work on The Vampire Diaries – people who also happen to be passionate about the environment. One notable mention is the Ian Somerhalder Birthday Project and their Bash on the Bayou event on November 13th, 2010 in support of the St. Tammany Humane Society, along with the organizations supporting the Foundation (Conservation International, Natural Resource Defense Council, Go Green Mobile Power, the National Wildlife Federation, New Leash on Life, and the St. Tammany Humane Society).

Resilience – The book “Getting to Maybe” by Frances Westley, Brenda Zimmerman, and Michael Patton, describes resilience as “the capacity to experience massive change and yet still maintain the integrity of the original innovation.” Since the collaborative efforts of partners of the Foundation have involved the “self-organization” of “powerful strangers” working towards environmental change, the resilience of the Foundation looks promising.

According to Ian: “In order to solve the interconnected issues facing humanity, we must work in full collaboration with other organizations and government bodies to create and provide tangible solutions that will empower people to protect their health and the environment. Any organization, business or person committed to creating positive change is invited to reach out and partner with us.”

How You Can Get Involved: If you are working towards improving the environment, your vision for change can be accomplished by collaborating with others who share your vision. To find out more about how you can join the IS Foundation in this collaborative innovation, visit the official Facebook page.

Andrea McArthur is a Research Consultant and Program Coordinator for the nonprofit sector. She is currently completing a thesis towards her Masters of Social Work about youth volunteers providing indirect services.  Read more from Andrea at the Volunteerguru’s Blog.

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