Social innovation is still a new concept in Croatia since there are not yet well established models and practices of social innovation (e.g. co-working spaces, urban hubs or labs, etc.). The country hosts quite a number of young start-ups but there are not yet many innovation centres or labs in Croatia or the existing ones are still not mature. Nevertheless Croatia is experimenting with new and innovative ways to address local challenges such as unemployment, economic instability or migration. In the last years, there was a surprising increase of experiments and projects searching for new and innovative solutions to local challenges. It seems therefore that there is some momentum for Croatia to start promoting, supporting and institutionalising these new social innovations. A way to do so it is to create opportunities for new multi-actors collaborations as well as to promote new critical ways of thinking about problems and their solutions.
With this purpose, the Croatian Independent Professionals Association (CIPA), supported by the Social Innovation Lab (SIL) organized an experimentation process in 2017. More specifically, this process wanted to increase the awareness among independent professionals of the concepts and practices of social innovation, to support them to find new and innovative solutions to individual and collective challenges as well as to enhance collaborations between a diverse group of stakeholders with different background, experience, age, and knowledge.
Through the carefully designed process independent professionals and other actors such as policy makers, public officers, NGO representatives interacted and developed creative solutions for local problems. From the identification of the local problems the participants started to brainstorm and critically think about solutions, and then started to develop and implement some of the identified solutions. The main two outcomes of the process were the following:
- A first solution addressed the challenge of independent professionals to cope with administrative-bureaucratic obstacles. Bureaucratic Compass, a website explaining issues around author contracting and copyright laws. It allows users to share knowledge about these issues and to support each other in addressing challenges (e.g. related to payments) through the use of a "wall of shame";
- The starting point of the second solution are the many empty commercial spaces on Zagreb’s main street, Ilica. 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.
The methods and tools used during the events and workshops were adapted from the SIC Learning Repository toolbox. The efforts, intrinsic motivations and ideas of these two organisations as well as their network made also possible to organise a Transnational Learning Exchange event in Zagreb between all five centres hosting an SIC experimentation process (Parnü Community Fund, SoCentral Oslo, SIL Zagreb, Municipality of Turin) as part of the Zagreb Design week 2017. The event gave the opportunity to the SIC partners participating in the experimentation processes to share their experiences and to inspire each other.
The overall experimentation process not only contributed to development of the two innovative projects outlined above, but it also increased the level of mutual trust and respect among the creative industries and the public sector and opened doors for future collaborative and innovative processes. Additionally the participants became more sensitive about the local problems and developed a sense of responsibly and ownership on the local issues allowing them to take a more active role and be more aware of their role as change makers or social innovators.