Creating Value with Values: Social Innovation Leaders Share Successes and Look Ahead

The recent Social Innovation Summit demonstrated the power of values-led creation

In the past, pediatrician William Kennedy would get in his car and drive for two hours to see some of his young patients. But now, thanks to so-called "telehealth" technology, Dr. Kennedy, who is the chief of pediatric urology at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, California, can consult with out-of-area patients in a clinical setting using video communication and collaboration technologies.

He and his patients both benefit from Cisco's HealthPresence technology, which has ushered in a new era of healthcare that focuses on the importance of the doctor-patient relationship by providing connectivity to high-definition video, audio and third-party medical devices for an enhanced doctor-patient remote consultation. In particular, this technology extends medical services to underserved groups for whom access to a doctor is not easy.

Being far away from urgent medical care is something that Dr. Kennedy knows personally. Getting his brother, who suffered from metastatic Ewing's sarcoma, to a hospital 25 miles away from home was a difficult undertaking for his family back in the 1970s. Four decades later, patients can rely on technology to bridge the gap.

Dr. Kennedy shared his experiences when he and Kathy English, the global senior director of Healthcare and Public Sector Marketing at Cisco, spoke to the attendees at the recent Social Innovation Summit in Mountain View, California. Presented by Landmark Ventures, this annual gathering brings together leaders from the public, private and non-profit sectors to drive the ongoing discussion around collaborative social transformation strategies like Cisco's HealthPresence.


Their presentation was just one of many excellent ones at the summit, which can all be watched in their entirety online at

Barbara Bush, executive director and co-founder of Global Health Corps, gave concrete examples of today's global health leaders who are creating innovative and systemic health solutions that are improving health in some of the neediest places, such as the architects who designed a new hospital in Rwanda, making changes in airflow to prevent the spread of tuberculosis.

Sal Khan, a former hedge fund analyst and the founder of the Khan Academy, a nonprofit with the mission of providing free, high-quality education to "anyone, anywhere" in the world, discussed how his program teaches about 6 million students a month through online videos, 200 million of which have been viewed over the last two years alone.

Kristen Titus, the executive director of Girls Who Code, described how hands-on education and mentoring can get girls thinking about a future in computer science.

Mary Anne Petrillo, global senior marketing manager for CSR at Cisco, a sponsor of the event, and Brian Sirgutz, senior vice president of Social Impact at AOL/Huffington Post, discussed ImpactX, an editorial hub at the Huffington Post website that presents content about the convergence of people, technology and social impact.


But the overarching goal of the private, invitation-only forum wasn't to regale attendees with successes (though there was a lot of that), but to look forward to the future across the world of social innovation. For anyone seeking inspiration to develop a good idea, these videos are an excellent place to start. And while the socially-minded innovators showed that problems have been solved—and there are many more to tackle—one fundamental theme undergirded all the presentations: Making a difference and making a profit aren't mutually exclusive ideas.

The doubled-edged concept of social innovation was perfectly encapsulated by Jonathan Greenblatt, a special adviser to President Obama and the director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, who, at the recent Good Deals 2012 conference in the United Kingdom, described it as "values-led creation as much as value creation."

The word "value" first appeared in English in the 13th century, from the Latin valere, meaning "be strong, be well, be of value." But its other meaning of "social principle" didn't emerge until some five centuries later. Today, that double meaning is at the center of social innovation, and gives new life to a sentiment that all of us can cheer: Getting more bang for your buck. Hopefully it won't take centuries for all businesses around the world to embrace this important idea.



Alexis Raymond. The Changing Landscape of Healthcare in the Digital Age. December 5, 2012. Accessed December 20, 2012.
Social Innovation Summit. Social Innovation Summit 2012: Business Innovation Meets Social Transformation. September 27, 2012. Accessed December 20, 2012.
Social Innovation Summit. Social Innovation Summit 2012: Streaming Videos. December 5, 2012. Accessed December 20, 2012.
Jonathan Greenblatt. Good Deals 12: Obama 'deeply believes' in power of social innovation. November 12, 2012.

image: Providing healthcare in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (credit: Ahu2, Wikimedia Commons)