Be part of the growing digital social innovation community across Europe at digitalsocial.eu
The terms “social innovation” and “digital innovation” have become commonplace in recent years, and significant amounts of private and public money have been invested in them.
However, the intersection of these two fields of innovation has until now not received the same attention. But it is an intersection with an ever-growing number of members, people who are using digital technologies to tackle social challenges.
These initiatives range from social networks for people living with chronic health conditions to online platforms for citizen participation in policymaking; from websites opening up public spending to crowdfunding campaigns for community projects; from open-source kits for measuring urban pollution to apps for sharing underused assets.
We call this phenomenon digital social innovation (DSI), and it constitutes one of the networks in the Social Innovation Community project.
Recognising that the field of DSI has its own opportunities and challenges, the European Commission is also funding a project called DSI4EU, led by Nesta, the Waag Society and SUPSI. The website offers four main things to people active and interested in the DSI community.
Firstly, projects and organisations can showcase their work by creating simple profiles. Through this they can describe their activities, their social impact, and the technology they use. Organisations can list the projects they work on, as well as the informal or formal networks they are part of, such as membership bodies or research networks. Projects can list all the project partners. This means that we are able to construct a data-rich understanding of what the DSI community looks like.
Secondly, an advanced search functionality means that you can find other organisations and projects by criteria such as geography, technology and descriptive tags. This allows you to easily identify other actors in the field, who may be potential collaborators.
Thirdly, we have up-to-date lists of DSI-related events across Europe, ranging from local hackathons to large conferences. Alongside this, we also have an up-to-date listing of funding and support opportunities across the continent. Furthermore, you can very easily submit your own events and opportunities for us to add to the site.
Finally, we profile amazing things going on across Europe through blogs, interviews and case studies. We know that these can provoke people to think in new ways, to understand more about their own work from hearing about others’ work, and to find inspiration.
We want the new website to be a pan-European hub for DSI, but we need your help to reach our ambitions. Whether you’re an individual or an organisation, a practitioner or a policymaker, a thinker or a doer, you can help us make this community the best it can be.
Here are a few things you can do to help us help you:
Sign yourself, your projects and your organisation up! We already have over 1,000 organisations and 700 projects signed up, but we hope to gather hundreds more. It’s quick and easy to register and is your access point to the world of digital social innovation.
Submit funding and events! There are two really simple forms which you can fill in to let us know about funding and events. It doesn’t matter if you’re responsible for them, or if you just came across them in your work - let us know and we can add it to the listings.
Talk to each other! Please do reach out to organisations you work with and use the site to find new partners who you think might be able to help you. You never know what might result from a serendipitous conversation.
Spread the word! Please tell other digital social innovators about the website and encourage them to sign up, through word of mouth, mailings and social media. From Meetups to conferences and online communities, we know the community is huge, and we want to bring it together.
Give us your feedback! Please let us know what you think about the site. If something doesn’t work, tell us. If you think something could be improved, tell us. Or if you just think it’s really useful, tell us. We like to know we’re helping.
DSI is an area of endless promise and potential. Bringing together two of the prominent trends of our time - new digital technologies and innovation for social impact - we hope it will grow and scale across and beyond Europe. Governments, industry and researchers are paying more attention to digital social innovation than ever before, and we want to help you on your journey. As any digital social innovator knows, together we can be more than the sum of our parts.
Matt Stokes is a Researcher on the Collaborative Economy at Nesta, the UK’s innovation foundation. Follow him on Twitter @stokes_matt and follow the DSI4EU project @DSI4EU.