Norm, deviant and diffuse

Social innovation is very serious business, with profound human consequences. But it has been largely misinterpreted: as creativity, as an expression of noble character or as a pretense to teach business and entrepreneurial skills. In response, GreenHouse has developed a foundational framework for social innovation, grounded in both social science and empirical research over seven years of projects in the public, private, social and academic sectors.


At its core, social innovation involves three steps: revealing the social norm that holds the undesirable conditions in place; identifying or creating a deviant from that norm; and diffusing the deviance through a sufficient number and breadth of reference groups.

GreenHouse has developed a methodology – and is working on a technology – to help potential social innovators with the first two steps: revealing norms and identifying deviants. The framework and methodology are being taught in-depth at USC as part of the nation’s first doctorate in social innovation and will be fully explored in the first-ever casebook on social innovation.