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Sun, May

Issue 44 | Social Innovations to Advance Social Mobility Models in Urban Cities

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Dear Readers,

Americans, according to Brookings1, have been getting better educated in the last half-century, but class gaps in post-secondary educational attainment remain large. College drop-outs have average earnings levels and unemployment rates closer to that of high school graduates than college graduates; individuals born into families at the bottom of the income distribution who get a college degree have more upward mobility than those who do not; and parents pass on their educational advantage to the next generation. Most higher education models focus on getting students into college, but fewer focus on, more importantly, tracking the obtainment of a diploma. Without receiving a diploma, good intentioned individuals, organizations, and colleges often cause more HARM than good towards students who are left without a diploma but burdened with significant loans. 

The theory of disruptive innovation teaches us that the establishment needs to pay attention to the exceptional or “non-consumers” of the social mobility system who have developed alternative models to current practices of what is offered by those in power. As background, a disruptive innovation is an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market leading firms, products, and alliances. The term was defined, and phenomenon analyzed, by Clayton M. Christensen and coworkers beginning in 19952. Since the early 2000s, "significant societal impact" has also been viewed as an aspect of disruptive innovation3. Disruptive innovations tend to be produced by outsiders and entrepreneurs, rather than existing market-leading companies. A disruptive process can take longer to develop than by the conventional approach and the risk associated with it is higher than the other more incremental or evolutionary forms of innovation.  

We have learned that the best correlation for individuals to earn family sustainable wages is either a higher education degree or a vocational certificate tied directly to a trade. Without a higher education degree or vocational certificate we know that individuals are usually “stuck” in the cycle of poverty, because even if they successfully increase their earning potential their public benefit subsidies decrease at the same rate keeping them poor.

At this time of heightened awareness in which we are operating in a global economy this edition of the Social Innovations Journal titled: SOCIAL INNOVATIONS TO ADVANCE SOCIAL MOBILITY MODELS IN URBAN CITIES, examines successful and innovative social mobility models in corporations, higher education, institutions, and social enterprises and offers strategies for them to scale or scale their impact.   

We especially encourage our readership to read the article College Rankings based upon Affordability, Graduation, Social Mobility, and Class Size Criteria by Michael Clark as it presents a new paradigm for how the average student in the United States should consider what college to attend. The college rankings by U.S. News and World Report (U.S. News), in our view, are not targeted to the average student. At best, these rankings contain irrelevant factors of concern; at worst, they perpetuate inequality and do more harm than good. If college administrations manage to outcomes driven by U.S. News, they cater to students and parents already sitting at the top of the economic ladder while eliminating opportunities for students lower on the ladder who seek social mobility through higher education. We encourage other large urban cities across the United States to develop and publish a similar college rankings system to better inform their residents of the best local opportunities for attaining opportunity through higher education.

Yours in Social Innovation,

Nicholas Torres
Tine Hansen-Turton



2 Bower, Joseph L. & Christensen, Clayton M. (1995)

3 Assink, Marnix (2006). "Inhibitors of disruptive innovation capability: a conceptual model". European Journal of Innovation Management. 9 (2): 215–233.

The Social Innovations Journal’s mission is to promote innovative ideas and incubate social innovation and thought leadership (i.e. teaching leaders “how” to think and not “what” to think) to spark a culture of innovation to create new models and systems change. The Social Innovations Journal (SIJ) takes a regional approach to sourcing social innovations and enterprises. Since 2008, SIJ has published hundreds of articles and convened thousands of people to discuss social innovations and social sector models at the local level. SIJ has a regional, national, and global following reaching millions of readers across the globe daily.