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Civic Engagement

What are Socially Beneficial Innovations and How is the Deane Foundation Uncovering Them in Tennessee?

Defining a Socially Beneficial Innovation

Words matter. Just ask any Twitter user who is trying to communicate a thought in 140 characters or less. Now imagine the gravity associated with creating a mission statement – one sentence that should theoretically capture and portray the essence of your organization and the people who comprise it. That’s no small feat, and The Deane Foundation’s co-founders, John and Natasha Deane, did not take this task lightly.

The John and Natasha Deane Foundation (“The Deane Foundation”) was created with the express mission of “finding and forging socially beneficial innovations for Tennessee Communities.” But what does this mission statement mean when we actually translate it into action, and why were these particular words chosen to communicate the essence of the Foundation?

It’s about community engagement and connection that promotes positive outcomes. In other words, the organization is focused on finding and forging ideas that benefit the public good. But not all ideas are created equal, and it’s easy to get bogged down in over ideating and not acting; which is why the word “innovation” is so important to our mission statement.

The word innovation has the tendency to be overused in our vocabulary – particularly when it comes to advancements in technology. However, in relation to the Deane Foundation, we are using the term innovation to describe a solution that meets new requirements; meets a previously unarticulated need; or meets an existing need but through a new method or process. Furthermore, the types of innovations we are seeking may be disruptive and upset the status quo, but in a manner that is necessary for positive improvement and progress.

But with so many thoughts and ideas bubbling to the surface daily, how do we find and forge true socially beneficial innovations? How do we ensure that we’ve explored as many ideas as possible so that we remain true to our mission statement? Through the art of listening.

The Deane Foundation’s Statewide Listening Tour

In May, the Deane Foundation began its Statewide Listening Tour – a six-month journey across Tennessee to meet with community stakeholders. Through the end of 2018, the Deane Foundation is committed to visiting Tennessee’s five major cities, the nine secondary cities, and as many rural communities as possible. During these visits, our goal is to meet with community stakeholders, including local elected officials, neighborhood associations, and individual citizens, to understand the key issues that are impacting residents.

As we visit these communities, our finding is that many Tennesseans are actually encountering and struggling with similar issues in their daily lives. By collecting this information at a local level and corroborating it with stories from across the state, the Deane Foundation is able to more accurately discern Tennessee’s biggest needs and challenges. This process also allows us the opportunity to prioritize socially beneficial innovations that would fulfill a need for many Tennesseans.

In the coming months, we will be sharing our continued findings as we travel across the state and learn more about the issues affecting Tennessee’s communities. Stay tuned to learn more about the community-specific feedback we are receiving and our plan for action.

Published on June 27, 2018 5:37pm

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Brittany Witt

Brittany Witt has more than 10 years of professional experience, and throughout her career has held multiple dynamic roles enabling her to hone a diverse and unique skill set. In her most recent role as Consultant with the Advisory Board, Brittany was involved in a variety of initiatives across the firm’s physician services and value-based care terrains, emphasizing client service, subject-matter expertise and data-driven solutions to address Advisory Board members’ most pressing healthcare challenges.

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