05/29/2013 06:00 pm ET Updated Jul 29, 2013

Collaboration: the Fuel for Innovation

The popular image of an innovator often involves tinkerers like Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak holed up in their garage or Mark Zuckerberg coding in his dorm room. While remarkable advances have been made by brilliant people exploring powerful ideas in relative isolation, a world-changing idea can come from anyone anywhere. True hotbeds of innovation develop those ideas through cooperation among talented individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences. It is far more impactful for innovation to spring from collaboration and a supportive ecosystem.

Collaboration is a core value at JPMorgan Chase and we apply it to our philanthropy just as we do in our business. While funding is important, the dollars are only one piece of the puzzle. We apply the firm's scale, global reach, and the expertise of our employees to help address current and future social challenges. Though we also recognize that to be truly successful, we need the right partners at the table and cross sector partnerships are imperative in driving global change.

The SME Catalyst for Growth program is one example of an innovative partnership in South Africa. Small businesses form the backbone of the economy in South Africa, but many small business owners lack the access to business development expertise they need to grow. In collaboration with Dalberg Global Development Advisors, Aurik Business Incubator and Raizcorp, JPMorgan Chase launched a pilot program that provides business development, technical training, mentoring and help accessing markets and finance to entrepreneurs. This program is helping to accelerate economic growth in South Africa by creating a framework for assessing the quality and impact of available services, helping both financiers and enterprises invest wisely in the sector. The program addresses the complex, interwoven financial and nonfinancial barriers small businesses face in a coordinated way. Investing in small businesses is risky - small businesses do not always succeed. However, when they do, they leave a lasting impact on their communities.

As social innovators, we're always taking risks to come up with the next groundbreaking idea. There's an inherent risk in charting unknown territory and doing something that has not been done before. Whether it's finding new ways to invest in communities, help small businesses grow, or create jobs and train people for the opportunities that are available, they all require bringing together talented and dedicated people with diverse skills, to catalyze social innovation and help bring new ideas to life.

Convenings like the Social Innovation Summit do just that. It helps us realize that our goals are shared by many and that collectively, we can achieve great things. When brilliant people with new exciting ideas gather, inspiration and collaboration are born. Ideas cross-pollinate, expand and grow. Dreams can become plans, and plans can become programs that make a difference in people's lives.

This article is the first in a series covering the topics and initiatives discussed at the Social Innovation Summit, a private, invitation-only forum that explores "What's Next?" in the world of social innovation. For more information on the Social Innovation Summit please visit For real time updates on announcements and attendees follow us on Twitter at @socinnovation.