Alan Bacon, Senior Director of the Social Innovation Fund at United Way of Central Indiana, leads the strategic direction of the Social Innovation Fund. Bacon began his journey at United Way in May 2019. He formerly served as the global director of learning and development at an IT and consulting firm and in a leadership role at a local college. The Social Innovation Fund brings innovators to the table to invest in new ideas, test new approaches and fund new projects that can deliver a measurable direct impact on the community. The fund is open to any and all ideas attached to poverty from various angles: food access, physical health and existing solutions. To attack poverty at its core, innovation is critical to strategy, collaboration and solutions. In 2019, United Way of Central Indiana awarded $750,000 to 14 community-based organizations to support innovative programs, concepts, and methods to help individuals and families reach their full potential in Central Indiana.
Alan, a creative at heart, draws on his artist and musician background to fuel innovation. “Innovation is an undefined portion that allows us to create”. Bacon believes that everyone is an innovator. Anyone with an opinion has a role in innovation. Alan considers the nature of social innovation as secular, thus any idea that leads a change is deemed innovative. More importantly, innovation allows us to gather together and create a greater representation of diversity of thought.
Alan defines innovation in two ways. Sustainable innovation takes preexisting solutions and improves it to make it more efficient. Disruptive innovation is reflective of how society is changing. For Alan, the Social Innovation Fund is a balance of both innovations.
He believes that United Way plays a pivotal role in innovation, serving as the convener at the intersection of community development. Many also look towards United Way for solutions due to its credibility in solving poverty.
His advice for other innovators is to take risks. Taking a leap of blind faith that is aligned with passion and creativity can produce the most innovative ideas.