Social Innovation Community in Retrospect – 3: Experimenting with Social Innovation

After three exciting years, the Social Innovation Community project, aiming to strengthen, connect and grow existing social innovation communities, came to an end. What did we learn? The DRIFT team shares main insights and promising resources that resulted from our involvement in a series of five blogs. Yesterday’s blog offered insights on the SIC exploration of theories on and design of social innovation education. on how SIC enhanced connections between science and society and continued with ; in this third part, Sophie Buchel and Giorgia Silvestri evaluate the urban social innovation experiments and co-creation processes of SIC.

One of the activities in the SIC project was experimenting with social innovation in cities. SIC partners worked with local organisations on facilitating co-creation processes with five organisations in four European cities: SoCentral in Oslo (Norway), Social Innovation Lab and the Creative Industry Professionals Organisation in Zagreb (Croatia), the Pärnu Community Fund & Forwardspace in Pärnu (Estonia) and the City of Turin (Italy). The challenges identified included cross-cutting issues affecting all EU countries: refugees integration, urban revitalisation, families at risk of eviction, holistic public services and lack of job opportunities for young people.

The SIC partners shaped their approach to support these local organisations through the principles of collaboration and openness, iteration, diamond-shape, coaching-support and peer-to-peer learning. DRIFT actively monitored and evaluated the co-creation processes by conducting interviews and surveys (e.g. through questionnaires). In addition, DRIFT facilitated the learning exchange between the organisations. Two workshops were organised in order to support the different organisations to exchange their knowledge, experiences as well as the challenges they faced during the co-creation processes.

Though the processes all followed the same methodology, they differed widely and showcased the diversity of approaches to co-creation that are out there. Across the cases, most facilitating organisations linked the societal problems the wanted to target 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 challenges. The host centres designed the co-creation process approach and engaged participants according to this context.

Hence, strategy followed content, and each process had a two-tiered focus on solution development and improving the local conditions, including the engagement of local governments. At the end of the experimentation over 10 solutions were co-created, but the biggest impact of the experimentation was the improvement of local conditions for social innovation, namely:

  • Changing of the culture to new collaborative approaches: Forwardspace expanded its role as a facilitator for social innovation processes focused on digital solutions for local challenges in Parnu and included SI in its new strategy.
  • Pushing the boundaries: the City of Turin broke down silos within the social services, housing and employment departments by designing a new comprehensive public service for families at risk of eviction.
  • Building internal capacity for social innovation skills and methods: SoCentral is now a central hub for refugee integration in Oslo.
  • Strengthening existing networks and fostering new partnerships: Social Innovation Lab and the City of Zagreb are working together for an integrated development of social innovation in the city.
  • Influencing others: the City of Venice showed an interest in the solution developed by the City of Turin.

Do you want to read more about insights that resulted from the Social Innovation Community project? Read the first blog, in which Julia Wittmayer and Sarah Rach explain how the project enhanced connections between science and society, the second blog, in which Marijke de Pous, Marieke Verhagen and Giorgia Silvestri elaborate on the SIC exploration of theories on and design of social innovation education, the fourth blog on the writing workshop power & empowerment in social innovation, written by Flor Avelino, or blog 5, in which Julia Wittmayer looks forward: how can we apply the lessons learned?

And do you want to learn more about the Social Innovation Community? Visit our project page.

The research leading to the results mentioned in this blog has received funding from the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No. 693883, Social Innovation Community.

June 26, 2019