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Putting social innovation on the agenda in Zagreb

The City of Zagreb does not only want to put social innovation on the agenda in the city – it also wants to become renowned for facilitating social innovation processes and supporting participatory development. Both, stimulating urban social innovations and developing innovative solutions for public services, will help to address numerous local challenges in the seventeen city districts. Think of the integration of refugees, unused public spaces or deserted shopping streets.

To this end, the City of Zagreb together with the Social Innovation Lab (SIL) organised an experimentation process in 2017. This process followed a certain design and included three phases, namely the definition of local challenges, the co-creation of solutions and the development of these solutions. In facilitating each of these phases, they made use of the innovation tools and resources in the SIC Learning Repository.

The workshops focused on the one hand on the public sector – bringing together and stimulating collaboration between public servants across different departments, and on the other to mingle it together with profit and non-profit actors from the creative industries, such as start-ups and museums as well as stakeholders from academia. Together they co-defined local challenges and designed a number of solutions, such as:

  • Smart Parks App . This app combines the fact that many inhabitants of Zagreb are not physically active with the fact that Zagreb is a very green city. It aims to promote sports and active recreation especially for less active groups such as youngsters and older people.
  • Croatian Language Training for Asylum Seekers . Increasingly Croatia, and Zagreb more specifically, have become a destination for refugees – since this is a new phenomenon, there is no history with questions regarding social integration. The proposed solution is to establish a multi-disciplinary working group that supports asylum seekers and acts as intermediary towards the city officials – a first pilot focuses on providing language learning systems.
  • Pop-up Ilica . The starting point here is that the main street of Zagreb, Ilica has lots of empty commercial spaces. Pop-up Ilica focuses on using empty spaces as catalysts for incubation and testing of new cultural, artistic and creative projects, services and products. In doing so it will experiment with different pop-up models to find more sustainable management models.


Having these hand-on solutions is one of the outcomes of this process, another one is that it challenged the existing local policy making culture with lack of collaboration between departments and between city officials and other societal stakeholder. Introducing and experimenting with a multi-stakeholder process was quite new for most of the participants involved, especially for the public servants. Instead of as ‘grant providers’ and ‘grant applicants’ competing with one another, the sphere during the process was marked by collaboration with the aim to co-create innovative, viable and collaborative solutions.


26 Mar 2018