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Final event review: More experimentation, please

Monica Nagore (The Young Foundation), Sophie Buchel (DRIFT) and Marie Nicole Soreville (DTI)

More experimentation, please

Monica Nagore (The Young Foundation), Sophie Buchel (DRIFT) and Marie Nicole Soreville (DTI)

On the 12th of November, the SIC partners - The Young Foundation, Social Innovation Lab and the Danish Technological Institute facilitated a breakout session during the SIC final event held in Seville. The aim of the session was to showcase and reflect on the experimental work developed across four European cities to co-create solutions to locally defined challenges.

SIC is a community for social innovators across Europe. The SIC project facilitated an active community within which social innovators across Europe could meet, exchange knowledge and skills and collaborate on innovative bottom-up solutions. In so doing, project partners and participants developed a deeper knowledge of tools and methods that may be co-implemented during social innovation-based activities. In addition, the SIC project provided practitioners with a clearer overview of known and often times neglected individuals/stakeholders, organisations and networks within the realm of social innovation. In so doing, SIC provided public decision-makers and other key actors with access to necessary resources with ways in which to better familiarize themselves with challenging societal issue, but also how to co-create solutions with those challenged by these societal concerns.

In Seville, SIC partners, social change activists, national, regional and local government representatives, leading social innovation think-tanks, concerned citizens, researchers and industry leaders were provided a prime opportunity to join together under the Final Event’s theme of “Beyond imagination: a socially innovative Europe”. It was an opportunity to showcase and celebrate three years of social innovation actions including place-based experiments in five European cities, and developing and fine-tuning of learning resources. More importantly, it was an opportunity to showcase and garner awareness and further support for the crème de la crème of the project, the Lisbon Declaration - #SIDeclaration - a manifesto founded on three years of work and consultation of over 350 people, culminating in 10 practical policy recommendations geared towards a “social triple A” for Europe.  

Two such recommendations or priorities within the context of experimentation and testing of new cross-sector and transnational collaborations in addressing locally defined issues and challenges, as observed during the four place-based experiments during the project and widely supported, include:

  • Making funding suitable for small-scale experimentation, spreading and scaling impact; and

  • Enabling citizens and civil society to lead local change initiatives through community-led innovation.

In Nov 2016, in the framework of the SIC, project partners started experimental work in cities in Croatia, Estonia, Italy and Norway. Local organisations went through a facilitated process in which together with stakeholders (civil servants, young professionals, private businesses, public employees, NGOs and refugees) they co-defined specific local issues for which they aimed to find solutions.

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.

The local organisations or local organisations in each city followed a structured process of co-creation and experimentation, consisting of several phases. In the preparation phase they were presented with an SIC handbook describing the process and offering a wealth of social innovation tools for each step in the innovation process, and from which they were encouraged to select (and possibly adapt) a few tools in each phase. The second phase centered around workshops to co-define local challenges. The third phase or the co-creation phase focused on the organising and facilitating of three additional workshops by the local organisations, where potential solutions were co-created with participants. For each of these four workshops, the local organisations invited a range of actors, including different stakeholders, citizens and unusual suspects affiliated with the local challenge. During the fourth phase of the implementation phase, the local organisations formed teams of actors around a few solutions from the co-creation phase that showed the most potential. The local organisations facilitated these actors in developing a sense of ownership of the problem and the solution, and supported further them with the development and testing of the solutions put forward. During the experimentation process each local organisation was supported by an SIC partner, and received €10.000 in support funding.

At the end of the experimentation over 10 solutions were co-created with the biggest impact being 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 SI processes focused on digital solutions for local challenges in Parnu and included SI in its new strategy.

  • Pushing the boundaries: the Municipality of Turin brokedown silos within the social services, housing and employment departments by designing a new comprehensive public service for families at risk of eviction.

  • Building their internal capability gaining new skills in social innovation tools and methods: SoCentral is now a central hub for refugee integration in Oslo.

  • Strengthening their existing networks and making new connections and 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 Municipality of Venice showed an interest in the solution developed by the City of Turin.  

The Final Event brought together the protagonists of these experiments and participants in a session where they shared their stories behind the experimentation processes, barriers and challenges they faced, drivers of the process, lessons learned, reflections around experimentation and its future. Further #collaboration and #experimentation are still needed to overcome the challenges we currently face and create a greater social impact.

In SIC we believe funding should be made more flexible to encourage the successful development of solutions. Funding is needed at all key stages of the social innovation lifecycle, including prototyping, experimentation, scaling and replicating proven innovations.

We would like to express our great appreciation to the people from the experimentation local organisations who supported us with their great professional work and enthusiasm:

  • Michele Lamanna, Innovation and European Funds at the Municipality of Turin, Italy.

  • Fabrizio Barbiero, Manager of social innovation policy "TORINO SOCIAL INNOVATION" at the Municipality of Turin, Italy.

  • Benedetta Bacialli, Turin, Italy.

  • Matja Raos, Director of Croatian Independent Professionals, Croatia.

  • Marija Raos Fitzhugh, Project Manager, Croatian Independent Professionals Association (CIPA), Croatia.

  • Mirna Karzen and Stella Kalac, Social Innovation Laboratory, Croatia.

  • Oliver Sild, Project Manager, Forwardspace, Parnu, Estonia.

  • Agnes Talalaev, Volunteer Centre of Parnu, Estonia.

  • Marie Harbo Dahle, SoCentral, Oslo, Norway.