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Final event review: site visit to ZEMOS98

This is a series of review of the SIC final event. Below is the site visit to explore social innovation in Seville, Spain.

Mediating for social change
Bringing SI collaborative learning practices into schools curricula

by Julie Munk - SIC network facilitator

“If you use post-its it is democratic”
“We need to change perceptions of what it means to do something different”

For more than 20 years the Seville based Social Innovation catalysator, the cooperative ZEMOS98 has played a cross-sector role in addressing issues of social needs locally, across Spain and throughout Europe.

As part of the SIC final event Beyond Imagination - a Socially Innovative Europe, a site visit was organised to give first-come-first-seated participants the chance to visit the organisation and get introduced to these unique insights from the social innovation experts of the Andalusian region.

As their headline ‘Mediating for Social Change’ ZEMOS98 is the incarnation of a local backbone organisation tucked away in one of Seville neighborhoods, no fanciness but with a quality and attitude, which welcomes you and reveals that ZEMOS98 is here for the people and that their history and track-record of work contributing to social transformation is long and rich.

Felipe Gonzalez Gil, CEO at ZEMOES98 talked participants through the history of the cooperative and some of the projects the organisation is currently involved with.

“We are like the mix in between - a hard place to be! Authorities tend to see us as activists, but activists don’t.”

Albeit being operating for more than 20 years (Felipe having worked there for most of them), the organisation is still struggling against classic perceptions of what ‘social innovation’ is, where it belong and who is part of the transformation. The ‘ecosystem’ is hard to build and grow he says, when misunderstood perceptions are hindering strongly needed collaborations between actors and sectors are kept siloed, when the exact opposite is needed. Likewise we are getting less support than we could need, as we sometimes are characterised in a misunderstood way.

Nonetheless Felipe and his team at around 10 people have enabled a impressive flow of transformative outcome yet holding they - as they explain - hybrid role of a intermediary and translating catalyst fighting to stay active to support the growth of social transformation.

During our visit, we learned from ZEMOS98’s work including projects like Copy Love which aims to share and make visible invisible practices in society which are ‘naturalised’ and  NEMESIS - a EU project on education and social innovation. The project asks
How can we open the door and listen to the voices of the students? And How can bring the students out of the school and show that learning happens many places? The project seeks to bring social innovation collaborative learning practices into school’s curricula.

Felipe and his colleagues are committed to make a case for how we as societies need to stop thinking about the experts and the rest of the people. According to them, it can be problematic, as we tend to cut our own role and responsibility out of change situations. We miss out of the potential of using all assets and to share efforts for stronger outcome. Platforms (online or organisational) can become a changemaker in that relation, as it help e.g. co-funding or to find shared projects among collaborators and communities.

During the site visit we engage in dialogues around the need to change perceptions of what it means to do something different. What is doing social innovation? Both ZEMOS98 and the participants from SIC’s Final Event agree, that with the increased emphasis on entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs we sometime forget about the social goal which has to be part of all the efforts and projects that we work for. Enterprises and entrepreneurs in the social innovation arena is essential, but we have to ensure it is not only becoming a business model or skills question, but that social goals are kept ambitious and central for our work.

Other parts of ZEMOS98’s work are Fundaction (a participatory funding platform), Concomitentes (on how to promote socially engaged art) and the Commonspoly (a game which promotes cooperation and The Commons). As the pictures below shows, Commonspoly has also been turned into a board game allowing players at all levels to get in dialogue on some Find the master guide here. And buy the game here.