Experimentation with social innovation

During the SIC projectfive experimentation processes for social innovation took place in TurinZagreb (twice), Oslo and Pärnu. Though the processes all followed the same methodology, they differed widely and showcase the diversity of approaches to co-creation that are out there. In this post, we compare these processes and highlight some of the ways in which they worked to improve their local ecosystems for social innovation, the process strategies they used, and where they pushed boundaries within and outside their organisations. DRIFTer Sophie Buchel summarizes the key aspects of each of the experimentation processes.

This article was first published on the website of the Social Innovation Community.

Improving ecosystems for social innovation
Across the cases, most host centres came to the SIC process with a specific local challenge in mind. They linked this societal problem to the ecosystem for social innovation in their local context, and identified where improvements in this ecosystem were necessary in order to successfully address the societal challenge.

The host centres designed the process approach and form to suit this context. Hence, strategy followed content, and each process had a two-tiered focus on solution development and improving the local conditions for social innovation generally. This multi-tiered approach by the host centres is also reflected in the success indicators they defined at the onset of the experimentation process. Many of these indicators surpass the societal challenge, and are aimed instead at increasing connections and capacities which will in turn contribute to a fruitful context for social innovation, according to the host centres.

“Each process had a two-tiered focus on solution development and improving the local conditions for social innovation”

For instance, SoCentral aimed to extend its network identity by “[becoming] a meeting place for all stakeholders, across sectors and backgrounds” on their issue. PCF wanted to facilitate “[participants to] see themselves as actors who can find solutions and create change.” And in Zagreb fostering a context for social innovation was at the forefront of the joint process, as shows in CIPA’s goal: “introduce the concept of social innovation to independent professionals [and] help them identify themselves as innovators capable of creating solutions for mutual benefits.” SIL even formulated three indicators at this level, wanting “to make the stakeholders in the process more open to collaboration and co-creation of solutions,” “to support the change of mind-set of city officials,” and to “increase the familiarity of participants with the concept of social innovation, help them identify themselves as innovators and to produce the feeling that innovation is and can arise from their personal capacities.”

Content-driven strategies
Host centres designed the process approach and engaged actors in large part driven by the problem they wanted to address. This is one of the reasons for the wide variety in kinds of processes that this experimentation resulted in. In Turin, for example, the Municipality took on the host centre role in the SIC process specifically because it wanted to use the social innovation toolkit to break barriers between its social service departments and develop an integrated public service for a certain target group in need. Because of this focus on internal challenges and the need for interdepartmental connections demanded by the target citizens, the process was strategically set up to engage only a small number of specific participants (12-22).

This process had the smallest number of participants who were all civil servants working for the Municipality of Turin, and the output was a single solution, whereas in the other processes more than one solution was developed. However, because of this narrow focus, the process led to more systemic change within the Municipality, fostering communication and collaboration between departments, as well as a solution that has institutional support and will be implemented as a multi-year, well-funded pilot.

“Host centres designed the process approach and engaged actors driven by the problem they wanted to address”

The processes in Zagreb and Oslo, on the other hand, both engaged a large number of participants (and from a wide variety of backgrounds): approximately 60-90 and 114-163, respectively. Both host centres wanted to mobilise and connect a broad network of people around the local issues, as they found there was a limited local ecosystem for social innovation to appropriately address these issues. To build broad support for the local issues and to tap into creativity for solution development, as well as capacity to take on the issues and solutions, they found it necessary to set up processes that were broad, diverse and focused on new connections between local actors, rather than more in-depth and focused.

Experimentation with Social Innovation - Social Innovation Community

Experimentation with Social Innovation.
Fotocredits: Social Innovation Community

Pushing the boundaries
In designing the processes, the host centres also chose approaches that would expand their activities beyond what they were doing at the time into new territories, but at the same time were still in their comfort zone. SoCentral had a strong community focus and continued to operate as a network throughout the process, however it branched out by setting up innovation event series that built on each other (rather that one-off events) and by engaging new types of actors they were not previously in contact with (most notable medium and large companies and other employers).

While PCF had a long way to go with this issue and process, it used the rich Estonian culture of entrepreneurship and IT innovation during the process, by looking for ways to connect the target audience of their solutions (youth) with local entrepreneurs, by using IT services in their solutions, by promoting their process on social media and by joining forces with a new co-working initiative for local entrepreneurs in IT and creative industries (Forwardspace).

“The host centres chose approaches that would expand their activities into new territories

SIL and CIPA joined forces by bringing their rich networks and ideas together (with the City of Zagreb) in one large-scale social innovation process for Zagreb. This process involved many different stakeholders and tackled a lot of different issues in the city, which was ambitious and challenging for the host centres. However, they used their experience as creative professionals in the social innovation field to make the process fun and interesting for the participants, to really lift the Zagreb innovation community to the next level.

The municipality of Turin, however, kept the process small and internally focussed, and brought in professionals from outside to facilitate the social innovation process. Because of this focus, though, there was room to challenge the status quo (both the structures and the culture) of the social services institution. Each host centre, along the way, managed to find this ‘sweet spot’ of leveraging their assets, and going outside their comfort zone to inspire creativity and innovation.

If you are interested in the specifics of these five case studies, please have a look at the details of each of them here. Over the coming weeks, we will continue uploading insights based on these cases, so make sure to subscribe to the SIC newsletter and keep an eye on the SIC social media (Twitter and Facebook).

Creative Industry Professional Association (CIPA) in Zagreb, Croatia

  • 60-90 participants
  • Local issue: Lack of support for creative professionals in Zagreb
  • Approach: Connecting creative professionals and civil servants in an intensive co-creation process
  • Solutions: Pop-up Ilica & Bureaucratic Compass

Pärnu Community Fund & Forwardspace in Pärnu, Estonia

  • 27-35 participants
  • Local issue: Youth drain from Pärnu due to lack of local jobs and housing
  • Approach: Creative multi-stakeholder solution development focused on stimulating entrepreneurship, through a small-scale intensive workshop
  • Solutions: Co-Võrk & Pärnu network

Social Innovation Lab & City of Zagreb in Zagreb, Croatia

SoCentral in Oslo, Norway

  • 114-163 participants
  • Local issue: Limited opportunities for refugees in Oslo to find work
  • Approach: Through a series of events, involving different actors on the issue and fostering connection and collaboration
  • Solutions: Employer Network & Integration Day

Municipality of Turin in Turin, Italy

  • 12-22 participants
  • Local issue: Fragmented service delivery to vulnerable citizens through lack of collaboration within city government
  • Approach: Externally facilitated co-creation of a holistic social service by engaging across city departments
  • Solutions: TO HOME

June 1, 2018