The Rough Path to Innovation
Springwire’s Digital Documents project didn’t win the recent Use Technology for Good contest sponsored by Good Maker and NTEN. That could be seen as bad news and failure, but I say that it’s good news because we entered in the first place. “The essential part of creativity is not being afraid to fail,” said Edwin H. Land, an American scientist and inventor, best known as the co-founder of the Polaroid Corporation and creator of the Polaroid instant camera. Along the way to success, Mr. Land probably tried out a few ideas that “failed.” We’re not claiming to be on to something as big as the Polaroid camera, but we have embarked on an era of creativity by trying out new Impact and Innovation ideas and piloting new ways of delivering voice mail services to veterans and people with chronic health conditions. We believe that isolation is a condition of living in poverty and that being cut off from communication and information perpetuates poverty. We believe it so much that we are risking “failure” to discover innovative uses of technology to reduce isolation.
Ruth McCambridge at Nonprofit Quarterly writes of our era as a time of playing out contradictions to create progress, in her article on External Influences on Nonprofit Management: a Wide-Angle View. When you widen the lens, you’ll see Springwire’s Digital Documents project in a new light. We’re one of just 40 quarterfinalists in Seattle’s Social Innovation Fast Pitch. We were awarded a City of Seattle 2012 Technology Grant. We’re piloting the project in six cities around the country. We see contradictions indeed. Is this project a winner or a loser? McCambridge describes the path to change as rough not smooth, requiring fluidity rather than a linear mindset. So in that spirit we carry on, noting what works and what doesn’t seem to be effective, seeking a wide angle perspective to assess whether something like Digital Documents is a good bet.
By doing so, I believe we’re aligning with a network of organizations that are seeking to navigate the “new usual” of our era by looking for patterns within uncertainty. At Springwire we look forward to the challenge of innovation and partnership, and we welcome your thoughts and suggestions.