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Social Innovation Community in Retrospect – 5: What’s Next? Applying SIC’s lessons

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. In part #4, written by Flor Avelino, Julia Wittmayer and Sarah Rach, we dived into hot topics in social innovation research: transformation and power. To close our five-part blog, Julia Wittmayer looks forward: how can we apply the lessons we learned from the Social Innovation Community?

Much of what we have learned and developed during the Social Innovation Community has found its way into a number of our new projects – many of which are focusing on accelerating energy transitions in Europe.

Social Innovation and the Energy Transition
That social innovations can play a role in energy transitions is no news anymore – we see energy cooperatives, peer-to-peer marketplaces or energy currencies changing the way energy is produced, traded and consumed. The big promise that social innovations also bear, is that they have the potential for making energy transition more transparent, participatory and inclusive. With our SONNET project, which just started in June 2019, we will map the diversity of social innovations in the energy sector and develop an overview of different types of such innovations. Once we have established an understanding of such different types, we investigate their cultural, political and economic contributions, assess their success against EU energy goals and explore their future potential.

To gain these insights, we build on SIC research and on the work on transformative social innovation in the TRANSIT project. We will combine in-depth case studies of social innovation processes across six countries with three citizen surveys. Building on DRIFT’s expertise in transition management and urban living labs as well as the insights from the SIC experimentation, we also run six Living Labs. These, amongst others, address energy poverty and aim to support behavior change or develop novel business and service models as well as collaborative governance models.

Social Innovation and Prosumerism
In the PROSEU project, which focuses on understanding the enabling conditions for mainstreaming prosumerism across Europe, the lessons from SIC experimentation are taken up too in the work on two Living Labs. These Living Labs focus on understanding and addressing institutional barriers in practice. DRIFT works together with 31Buurtwarmte, a service of the umbrella organization of Dutch energy cooperatives EnergieSamen. Playing into the recent policy decision of shutting down the Dutch natural gas production in due time, 31Buurtwarmte is an initiative aimed at supporting people in neighborhoods to collectively search for alternative energy sources. It does so by combining a cooperative heart with an entrepreneurial mindset and this hybrid orientation is one of the sources for barriers in their development.

DRIFT also works with Aardehuis Olst, an ecovillage in the East of the Netherlands that has an experimental status from the Dutch government for installing a smart grid. Here the focus is on increasing the understanding of how peaks in energy production and consumption can be mediated by individuals and communities. For more information on other PROSEU Living Labs, check here.

Social Innovation and Roadmapping
The insights on innovating education and learning, specifically the format of Social Innovation Relays will be further piloted in the TOMORROW project, which is due to start in September this year. This project focuses on sharing best practices of social innovations between cities with the goal to support a roadmapping process in nine European cities. The Relay format will be used to provide policy workers in European cities with the opportunity to exchange and learn from one another regarding specific energy transition challenges they are experiencing in their cities.

Social Innovation and Collaboration
All these projects build on or involve close collaboration with innovators, policy-makers or entrepreneurs. In doing so they build closely on the insights of the SIC transformative research work. This community building function and the focus on interaction between science and policy specifically, comes to bear in the Energy-SHIFTS project. Energy-SHIFTS aims to provide a platform for the energy-related Social Sciences and Humanities to contribute to a European Energy Union that places societal needs centrally. DRIFT develops a policy fellowship programme that enables in-depth dialogues between policy workers and energy experts in the Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH). These dialogues center on crucial energy issues and challenges of policy workers.

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 third blog  in which Sophie Buchel and Giorgia Silvestri evaluate the urban social innovation experiments and co-creation processes of SIC, and part 4, written by Flor AvelinoJulia Wittmayer and Sarah Rach, on hot topics in social innovation research: transformation and power.

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

Acknowledgements
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.


Date
June 28, 2019