Learning from Mistakes
President Barack Obama and his administration are making unprecedented investments in identifying, cultivating, and replicating social innovations. This unique federal effort seeks to build on the strengths of the nonprofit sector to improve the lives of children, families, and communities. At the same time, foundations are designing prize strategies to encourage innovation, spurred by the success of the X PRIZE. An overarching consideration in both approaches is that hunting for successful social innovations may not be sufficient: it is only a part of the answer. A treasure trove of innovation mistakes and failures exists, mostly out of sight, that could inform the design and replication of a next generation of social innovations. We need to know more about what hasn’t worked and why. We need to learn from our mistakes.