Earth Company

Massive List of 36 Models for Digital Social Innovation

Is 36 Models for Digital Social Innovation Really Enough?

NOTE:  This is a massive list. Look around for a model for digital social innovation that’s right for you.​

Researching models of digital social innovation: An Introduction

Overwhelm is probably the most logical word to describe what we feel when we think about the problems in the world and how to even get started choosing a cause to invest our time and energy into.

That’s why I thought to put together an extensive list of social problems and businesses answering those problems, 36 of them in fact. Models demonstrate possibility so I thought it would be a great place to start to generate and stimulate ideas, not only for myself but for anyone contemplating how to make a dent in the giant scrap yard of problems we inherit from generation to generation.

We are surrounded by local issues, personal, micro issues that happen within homes and families, we’re confronted with political issues that happen on the city, state and national scales and even internationally and then we’re faced with the burden of trying to comprehend the scope and scale of systemic problems that are persist and baked into our way of life.

What’s the structure of this guide to 36 methods and models of social innovation?

What follows are links that you can click on to navigate to any of these different businesses or social problems on this page as well as features on different organizations and what they do. This is a long article so you can use the category and link sections to navigate more quickly through the page. When you want to return to the top just scroll back up.

This list of these 36 methods and models is going to include existing organizations, nonprofits, and businesses that are answering problems in specific areas of society.

But Before Jumping In…

In my view, the first step to reform is identifying the problem, the second step is to generate models that are sustainable and that integrate into the existing social and economic network but enable different outcomes.

We all have strokes of genius and when that comes, grab a hold of it. But if you’re not in a moment of inspiration, the way forward could be to look at existing models that are already addressing the problems and either emulate them or innovate from that point.

Maybe you already have a cause that you’re passionate about. If so great. If not, perhaps choose two or three of these and spend some time getting to know the organization’s features and explore what their novel solutions have been.

Massive List of 36 Models for Digital Social Innovation

Enter the master list!


Small e-commerce may be getting more difficult in 2019 but it remains one of the lowest hanging fruits for delivering a degree of social change. With a Shopify store, for example, you can set up a shop that siphons a portion of proceeds off to your chosen cause in only one day. That’s how easy it is. The companies featured here, however, are doing much more than this. They are building their own networks and supply chains and changing the way business is done.

1. Makers Unite

e-commerce - makers unite - 101 models for digital social innovation

A Hallmark of social Innovation projects is the aim to integrate multiple facets of the business into a powerful cocktail of elements that sums up the brand and delivers the social change they seek.
Makers Unite manages this by upcycling life vests used by immigrants and hiring immigrants to produce products from those life vests, thus extending employment for migrant populations and sending a powerful message about the tragic story of immigration in these times.

2. Burlap and Barrel

One of the best things about e-commerce as a tool for social impact is that it’s one of the most accessible business structures for regular people to set up with a philanthropic edge.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy.  There are massive barriers in the marketplace, for instance, Google doesn’t rank social Innovation companies any higher than any others but they often have fewer resources, so accessibility is still a problem. But if that can be overcome, anybody can go shopping!

Burlap & Barrel sources artisan spices from local small-scale farmers allowing them to sustain farming practices and not Bend to the corrupting influences of large-scale farming and the middlemen that come with it. if you want to impress your friends with some amazing spices with an incredible backstory take a minute and shop at burlap and Barrel.

Some Other Great Social Innovators in E-Commerce

3. Black Mamba

e-commerce - black mamba chilli - 101 models for digital social innovation

4. Relevee

e-commerce - relevee - 101 models for digital social innovation

5. To The Market

e-commerce - to the market - 101 models for digital social innovation

6. Lal10

e-commerce - lal10 - 101 models for digital social innovation

Local Resources

Local resources can be physical such as raw materials,  materials like recycled landfill waste for example or products made from local flora.   local resources are also cultural ones such as the talents, knowledge, and skills that a particular population has expertise in.   Let’s look at a few examples.

7. Alternative Waste

Deforestation is a massive problem in Kenya. The issue was first championed by social innovators like Wangari Maathai, the visionary founder of the green belt movement in Kenya.

In small villages that lacked electricity, fuel for heating the home and for cooking was a problem traditionally solved by the use of local wood, animal dung, and even trash. But as populations grew, forested areas began to dwindle.

Alternative Waste is continuing the tradition of biofuel use sustainably with its manufacture and sale of biofuel briquettes. The briquettes are sourced by gleaning a sustainable amount of decomposed debris from the forest floor and compressing it into very effective fuel briquettes.

8. Shop Soko

In a new Twist on fair trade, Soko is pioneering the ethical fast-fashion space by working with local artisans and utilizing mobile phone technology to create virtual factories for the production of heritage craft products produced for urban women.

I question what the long-term impacts of the business model like this would be on the environment, but it’s certainly a boon with regard to local economic sustainability and the preservation of cultural practices. The company was founded in Nairobi Kenya but in recent years has set up offices in San Francisco.

9. Charity Water

There is no resource more essential than water. is a fundraising site but their methodology and focus are on local resources and local empowerment.

They achieve their objectives by working directly with community partners to develop clean drinking water projects in areas of need. Active in 26 countries and with almost 30,000 projects under their belt, charity water is being the change they want to see.


If you’re looking for innovations in the delivery of healthcare don’t look to the US. Revolutionary new models of healthcare quality AND accessibility can never thrive in such a greedy, regressive country as one that lets the pharmaceutical and insurance industries plunder and pillage the people so freely. But that’s okay because there are hundreds of other countries that are friendly to better healthcare and open to reform-minded leaders. Here are a few examples:

10. doctHers

healthcare - docthers - 101 models for digital social innovation

Yes America, in the field of progressive healthcare, you can look up to Pakistan.

In true social Innovation form, Docthers is solving for a spectrum of social issues. The two main prongs of their platform which is a digital mobile phone-based technology are to overcome the socio-cultural barriers preventing female doctors from practicing and traveling freely to visit patients on the one hand and secondly to increase accessibility of healthcare for the general population. The third feature of this technology is the reduction of costs that a fully digitized Healthcare platform can provide.

11. TNH Health

healthcare - tnhhealth - 101 models for digital social innovation

Extending the reach of healthcare to rural populations in hard-to-reach areas is one of the biggest challenges in some countries. Technology is now enabling an array of healthcare-related processes to be automated or to be performed remotely.

TNH Health is providing Health Care to millions of individuals by way of automated chatbots that can reach patients through SMS and extend the capacity to diagnose and prescribe.

12. Jamii Africa

healthcare - jamii africa - 101 models for digital social innovation

When people think health insurance they should be thinking that health insurance is a good thing that gives them access to the care they need.

Jamii Africa is delivering on this expectation through micro-healthcare plans and a digital platform that insurance holders can contain the patient’s ID and can be used at hospitals throughout Tanzania. Individual plans are as low as $19 annually or 44000 Tanzanian Shillings.


With all the competition around being in the right zip code to be at the right school to get the advantage in education, it’s easy to understand how access to quality education for children can be the game changer. Getting kids excited and started on STEM when they’re young can make all the difference. Once again quality and access are key and could help level the playing field in decades to come.


children - - 101 models for digital social innovation

In early childhood education, Hippocampus, an Indian private and affordable school network Is enabling parents to work with the confidence of knowing that their children are getting a great early childhood education. Hippocampus, through a partnership with Connovo, has successfully expanded to Mexico.

With over “200 centers and 72 franchises in India”, Mexico is hopeful to grow their Hipocampus division to serve children throughout Mexico.

14. 1Bot

children - 1Bot - 101 models for digital social innovation

1Bot has an extremely ambitious goal to bring Guatemala to the top of the charts in stem education by giving Young Learners the tools to learn Technical skills through robotics. The company is a distributor of very low-cost robotics kits. In addition, they run workshops and create STEM programs for participating schools to use.


With climate change effecting the movements of human populations and fascism and nationalist/racist hate groups on the rise, populations in transition around the globe are in urgent need of infrastructure and services that support the life they find themselves in, wherever they are. Here are a few examples:

15. 1951 Coffee

migration - 1951 coffee - 101 models for digital social innovation

Not all efforts are as large as some of the examples we’ve looked at already. Small organizations can also have a great effect on conditions for people in local areas.

Fortunately for those immigrants living in Berkeley California, there’s 1951 Coffee, a coffee company that actively employs and trains immigrants to help them enter the job force. if you happen to be in Berkeley CA, head over and get yourself a cup of coffee.

16. Refugees Code

migration - refugees code - 101 models for digital social innovation

Clearly stated on the mission page of refugees {code} is the following:

“New Austrian Coding School is a programming school for everyone. We offer a nine-month training program to develop coding and software development skills, free of charge. The program is designed for people living in or around Vienna who are currently unemployed and want to work as developers in the near future.”

refugees {code}

Well I might go ahead and become an immigrant for this one… oh wait, I already am one!

Anyway, Austria is an amazing country with amazing policies around immigration. These conditions fit like a glove with refugees {code}, a nine-week coding boot camp designed to take unemployed immigrants and turn them into gainfully employed coders and developers in Austria. I’m packing my bags!

Human Trafficking

It’s beyond me to be able to comprehend the horror of being kept against your will and used, bought and sold as a piece of property. Sadly 20 to 30 million people every year know exactly what that is like. Models of social innovation with regard to human trafficking tend to be highly specialized, bringing an array of services to bear from intervention to recovery and beyond. As is the case with many social problems, e-commerce offers and obtainable vehicle for taking action.

17. Earth Company

Since 2015, Earth Company has been raising vital funds for change makers in South Asia, change makers like Bella Galhos, who, living through civil war and being human trafficked by her own father has gone no to be the first openly lesbian presidential candidate of Timor-Leste.

If that isn’t a powerful story, I don’t know what it is, and Bella is only one of many change makers who have been empowered by Earth Company.

This innovative organization goes further though, with training and education, an eco resort for hosting such events and the promotion and sale of local sustainable crafts. Next time your in Indonesia, be sure to seek them out!

18. Nomi Network

migration - nomi network - 101 models for digital social innovation

The Nomi Network based in India and focused on the state of Bihar is a group that works in intervention and recovery for women who have been human trafficked or who are in danger of being human trafficked. They do this by providing jobs making fashion accessories and other products that are sold on their shopping website,

Nomi Network accepts donations for their “Sponsor Her” campaign and they raise funds with e-commerce to carry out their work.

Financial Services

Just as we wouldn’t expect to see radical innovations in health care on US soil, we would definitely expect to see some activity on the financial front. Thankfully, our fellow soldiers of peace, truth and social and environmental equity have infiltrated the ranks of the pure profit crowd. Here’s a look at social innovation on the financial front.

19. Esusu

If there’s one thing to learn when going through this list of methods and models of social innovation it’s that social enterprises are multi-pronged in their design and effect.

Esusu manages this by making financial health a social event. Together with a group, users use Esusu like a savings account but with the added responsibility of doing it collectively. In addition, users can actually increase their credit score because Esusu acts as another form of credit. You can create whatever accountability groups you want within Esusu, like a “get out of student debt” group.

Very interesting. I’m looking forward to giving it a go as a vacation savings app for my family.

A Note on the Importance of Monetisation

Big dreams are great, but getting the money you need to lift a do-gooder projects off the ground is something you should consider carefully. For those of you who want to have maximum control over the vision and outcomes of your project, you may want to consider self-funding, but BEWARE. Trying to hustle the money up yourself can send you off on the wrong trail and leave your actual mission sitting in the dust.

After several years experience doing the former, I recommend seeking funding IF 1) you’ve got something fully formed enough to show. 2) If you have built your pitch deck 3) If you have potential team members in mind you can showcase 4) If you can actually get investors a positive ROI (at least 5X to 10X their investment is ideal). If you meet those criteria, take a look at the social impact resources like .


Wicked problems are problems that are systemic and very difficult to solve. In addition, according to Wikipedia, “A problem whose solution requires a great number of people to change their mindsets and behavior is likely to be a wicked problem.”  Social and environmental justice, given that these issues are still not standardized as a commonly shared value, means that by definition they are themselves in the realm of wicked problems. People need to change their minds to correct the cultural corrosion that leads to something like poverty or environmental degradation.

Starting a business is hard enough. When you add social innovation to the mix, it’s even harder. Social innovation accelerators and incubators are in place to help new social entrepreneurs build a solid foundation.

20. Social Innovator Accelerator

Accelerators -social innovation forum accelerator - 101 models for digital social innovation
18. Social Innovation Forum Accelerator

21. Benisi

20. Benisi: Accelerator Serving Europe and Points East

22. ImpactTech Japan

22. Support4Good is a member or Social Change Makers #4

ImpacTech works with Nippon Foundation in Japan to provide an ideal environment for early stage social impact startups to bloom. Support4Good is one off 11 startups selected out of more than 70 applicants for Cohort #4 and we are thrilled to be a part of it.

Having the privilege to be a part of this program twice with two different companies, I can attest to the increase in quality this program has acquired over the last year. Check out the full roster of startups in this year’s cohort!

23. Barbera Corporate Law

23. List of 17 Social Innovation Accelerators in America

There are probably hundreds of social innovation accelerators around the world, large and small, well and poorly funded.  An important first step is to make contact and if possible, get involved with these organizations and the people connected to them.

Share your ideas and develop them among these rich and resourceful communities.


When considering UN sustainability goals, or whatever the next branded approach to solving wicked problems is, education is a lynchpin that demonstrates the realities of intersectionality.

Access to equal education, equal resources globally is a goal that has a multiplicative effect on many other SDG goals and here are just a few social innovation initiatives taking this challenge on.

24. Innovation Village

Accelerators - Innovation Village - 101 models for digital social innovation

In Uganda, the youth population is exploding. Uganda needs to constantly evolve its infrastructure in order to absorb a heavy influx of youth, some say up to 25000 new workers every day, into the workforce as positive contributors to Uganda’s sustainability and economy.

Innovation Village is in position to give young innovators a chance to develop their solutions to social problems they encounter in their lives, in a positive nurturing atmosphere, where other social innovator mentors are on hand to offer their experience and insight.


From Tepco and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant meltdown in 2011 to the multiple devastating wildfires caused by PG&E in California to powerful social problems arising from failures in the old energy infrastructure in developing countries, lack of access to electricity is a humanitarian issue and one that social enterprises focused on energy innovation are trying to solve.

Developed countries and states like California are moving toward full integration of decentralized power that is in large part renewable energy based. In developing nations renewable energy is the obvious solution too.

25. Box Power

Box Power is an innovative startup that works in areas where normal solutions to access to electricity are insufficient. They offer portable modular intelligent solutions that have been deployed to such diverse locations as Peru Polynesia and the Navajo Nation, what is equally as useful advance and natural disasters.


Nature shrinks as capital grows. The growth of the market cannot solve the very crisis it creates.

To reform farming practices to the point that all externalities are taken into consideration is probably a long way off. While industrial farming has indeed solved for certain immediate needs, it has done so with a narrow focus, often times setting new problems into motion.

Here’s a look at two farming social Innovation organizations that keep it small and local in the interests of striking a better balance between farming practices and its integration with the rest of life.  These organizations exemplify circular economies in motion.

26. KadAfrica

Farming - KadAfrica - 101 models for digital social innovation

This is just off the top of my head, leftist common knowledge I suppose, that women are more reliable when given microloans than men, or at least that’s what statistically holds true.

So it comes as no surprise that many social innovation platforms focus on the empowerment of women and KadAfrica is doing this with the cultivation and sale of passion fruit.

When women in areas that have traditionally and dominated by men begin to on the skills to their own financial freedom, they also gain power and influence and have the opportunity to become a stabilizing force in their communities.

27. Grassland Africa

Farming - Grassland Africa - 101 models for digital social innovation

Grassland Cameroon is a regional grain handling company whose focus is to maximize the efficiency of grain stores management and minimize waste. it’s an excellent area to enter into the farming sector with one simple specialized skill that makes a big difference.


Oh, I had a hard time as a teen! Being a teenager can be really tough, and for kids with instability in their lives, either on the domestic level or those experiencing the de-stabilization that comes with systemic racism and classism, like when educational outcomes are predetermined to a degree by zip codes, it can be much harder.

It is important for us as a society to recognize what a critical sector of the population teenagers are. What happens to them in their formative years determine the psychological frameworks on which future generations will be built.

28. Skratch

Skratch is a mobile app that’s in its early stages of development focusing specifically on Dallas Texas.  They’re responding to needs identified in the local community by connecting mostly parents and their teens with opportunities to work in the neighborhoods where they live (teenagers working with younger children is a popular gig).

If your 9-year-old daughter wants to learn how to master a yoyo trick, for example, there may be a teenager in the database that can help her with that. it’s an interesting concept and furthers the values of self-determination, being a good role model, and having healthy relationships with other children, all while strengthening local communities. Nice one!

29. Ask Without Shame

Ask Without Shame is an Android app that young teenage girls in Uganda can use for discreet private confidential sex education and to get accurate answers to their questions about sex.

It’s a needed resource for girls to have and helps them make better decisions and refute false claims.


I want my daughter to be able to perform an armbar on an assailant before I allow her to go to school alone… I joke, but I’m definitely a fan of this category. For myself, I’m a man of peace but when it comes to the safety of my daughter, I want her to kick ass.

30. She Fighter

Self-Defense - She Fighter - 101 models for digital social innovation

Based in Amman Jordan, SheFighter Is the only self-defense studio for women in the Middle East. The founder decided to start the project after a friend of hers came to her with bruises on her face. In Jordan, much like many other countries throughout the world, men continue to abuse their powers of physical strength to inflict psychological and physical domination over women.

She Fighter is an answer to that mistaken understanding.

Supply Chain

Interstitial services like the supply chain, especially in local communities can serve to make those connections that a village perhaps wouldn’t be able to make on its own and thus it is an excellent arena for social innovation.

31. To The Market

e-commerce - to the market - 101 models for digital social innovation

In case you’re wondering, yes I mentioned this organization at the beginning in the E-Commerce section, so I admit this is a bit of a cheat on the numbers.

To The Market is an E-commerce outfit producing tote bags and other items and what they’ve done is to build their own supply chain made up of more than 100 curated suppliers based on an array of conditions, but governed by ethical business practices and equitable compensation.

32. Vakava Africa

Supply Chain - Vakava Africa - 101 models for digital social innovation

Something that can pose an extreme challenge in hard-to-access areas of the world is the difficulty in transporting medicines and foods that need to be kept cold on their way to reaching remote locations.

Vakava Africa like, has come up with a solution that makes an impossible situation possible. Their cold storage units come in a variety of sizes and requires no external power sources making them virtually fail-proof. this technology Is a game changer for the shipment of groceries, meats, and medicines.

33. Indigenous People

The disenfranchisement and vilification of indigenous people has been a systemic step-by-step process that breaks down people’s cultures, their livelihoods, their migration patterns, with the aim to eventually integrate them into mainstream economic activities of the countries in which they find themselves in, countries that are altogether alien to them, countries who have occupied their ancestral lands.

Any social innovation interventions need be carried out only in partnership with the indigenous populations, as ultimately they must make their own choices as a people. Given the fact that non-profit organizations or other organized groups are foreign and external to indigenous peoples, it stands to reason that there are very few models of digital social innovation among indigenous peoples.  This kind of an instrument of change would need to be formed organically from within the community rather than descending as it were from some outside perspective, and any case of the latter, even if designed in the interests of indigenous peoples would just be another extension of colonialism and occupation.

Of course the disappearance of long-standing native cultures is one of humanity’s greatest forms of tragedy, just as animal extinction is a tragedy with regard to global ecosystems and life on Earth as a whole.  But in the case of indigenous peoples, it is in no one’s jurisdiction but members of indigenous communities themselves to decide what’s best for native people.  Whenever there is a chance to assist or advocate on behalf of an indigenous community (and what happened at Standing Rock in North Dakota is a great example),  there are thousands upon thousands of us waiting in the wings to lend our support.

Fair Trade

Bringing together a variety of ethical business practices: from grassroots supply chain design to paying a fair price for local goods led to a new industry with explosive growth potential now known the world over as “Fair Trade”.

Humans love novelty, and we love to learn. The sourcing of native crafts and arts afforded those life-enriching experiences in the form of products to people living all around the world.

Cottage industries are at the core of Fair Trade businesses and so is a respectful compensation for goods that allows local artisans and communities to preserve their way of life, if they so choose, or to change it and evolve it.

Virtually everyone knows something about it when Starbucks talks about their Fair Trade coffee beans.  But major profit-driven players like Starbucks may use “fair trade” programs as a trojan horse simply to help them break into new sub-sectors of the market who generally oppose growth-driven corporations like Starbucks. Therefore it is important to do your research when looking into fair trade companies to shop with. Check out this article to find a few excellent Fair Trade companies.

34. Gifts With Humanity

gifts with humanity donate for a cause/models of digital social innovation

Gifts With Humanity is a Global Crafts brand, founded by the same two visionaries that, after volunteering abroad with the VSO and the Peace Corps, decided to start a Fair Trade company all the way back in 2002.

The lovely selections you’ll find at Gift With Humanity are a curated collection that knocks the socks off those Aliexpress imposters. Leave all that behind and find only the best fair trade, local artisans, here.

35. Counter Culture Coffee

Fair Trade -Counter Culture Coffee - 101 models for digital social innovation

Founded in 1995 in Durham, NC, Counter Culture Coffee is a “boutique” coffee roaster who sources all their beans from small farms, paying anywhere from $1.3o to $25/lb – see their Wikipedia page for additional details.

The model that sets them apart is all about sourcing.  Counter culture only works with artisan coffee farms with environmental practices.  To help ensure and magnify their practices are adopted more widely they established their own certification, the Counter Culture Direct Trade Certification, in 2009.

In addition to all this goodness, they offer their local communities a wide variety of educational opportunities, all things coffee.  In doing so, they prepare the next generation of baristas and roasters to inherit fair trade values and to hit the ground running with a clear and practical understanding of how fair trade actually works.

Impact Investing

According to Wikipedia (I still believe in it) impact investing refers to investments “made into companies, organizations, and funds with the intention to generate a measurable, beneficial social or environmental impact alongside a financial return.”

So we’re talking investors here. There are a range of services focused specifically on impact investing, many with novel and educational approaches to brokering relationships between social innovators and their investors.

36. Impact Experience

Impact Investing - Impact Experience - 101 models for digital social innovation

One really interesting service like this is the impact experience. Their mission statement:

Impact Experience builds bridges and deep relationships between impact investors, foundations, entrepreneurs, artists and local leaders to co-create solutions with marginalized communities.

A Note About Misinformation

NOTE: If you are a small social innovation group and you are seeking funding, there is a lot to consider, including research and publications that work against your cause. To understand the concerns of social impact investors, check out this Vox article which gives an overview. The article itself is almost devoid of facts, but it does speak to very real fears of investors that pose a challenge when trying to raise capital.

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