Jobless people have many resources (time, skills, tools) and unfulfilled legitimate needs. Currently in Europe, our established monetary economy often fails to bring people back into work by helping them fulfil each other’s' needs. Economy App allows for direct economic exchanges, replacing money as a medium of exchange with a novel form of computer-supported bartering - “network barter”. Here, barter does not happen directly between two people but our software will calculate complex multi-party barter trades. In every trade, participants receive and give the same value. A web-based platform will enable these exchanges. You can pre-register to find out when it launches at economyapp.eu
What were your reasons for entering the European Social Innovation Competition?
Upon entering the competition, I had just a vague idea in my mind that had fascinated me for a long time - that it should be possible to jumpstart a crisis-ridden economy just with software, by mapping offers to demand. But since I lacked sufficient time to look into this in detail, it always remained just an idea. I did not even know how exactly this software could, or would, work. Obviously, I considered the chance to get initial support and funding through this competition as something very attractive.
What did you learn throughout the experience of being involved in the European Social Innovation Competition?
A lot of things! For example, as our project's core team is mostly computer geeks, it was great to get introduced during the semi-final stage workshop to different elements such as designing user stories, experimenting with the business plan and so on. Equally helpful was learning about the projects of my fellow semi-finalists and exchanging experiences and tips with them. For example, one was really good at explaining things in simple terms, helping me a great deal to explain our concept in “elevator pitch” size. Also the second workshop at Nesta stands out in my mind, during which we got personal counselling for our community development strategy and an information exchange with a related start-up company.
How has Economy App developed since entering the European Social Innovation Competition last year?
Between the Competition's first and second stage, Economy App developed from a vague idea to a full-fledged start-up project, including a serious technical innovation (“network barter”) and a team including programmers, a mathematician and a partner organization for community outreach. I was simply lucky as I could join forces with another start-up team which had to pivot their concept during this time. I was partly pushed by the competition's process towards getting the concept to a usable stage. So from our own example, it seems that the Competition is able to facilitate ideas that would not have launched otherwise – one the key goals of the Diogo Challenge.
What advice would you give to someone considering entering the competition?
Here's my advice: If you have an idea that you are enthusiastic about and it fits into the theme “The Job Challenge”, definitely enter the competition. Even if your idea is abstract, vague, and there are only hours before the deadline (which occurred in our case) you should apply. If you or your friends have more than one idea, apply with every single one. But make sure your team can handle the workload of implementing your idea in case you win because being a social entrepreneur means a lot of work.
What is your impression of social innovation across Europe?
I understand social innovation as innovation with public rather than private benefits or any innovation designed to benefit society rather than investors. In this sense, social innovation has always existed, but we have only recently started to use this term. In my humble opinion, as somebody new to this field, there is also a major challenge to support social innovation: to firstly find social innovators, current or potential.
Also, as I discussed in a recent chance meeting with a social innovation lecturer: just as a crisis like world-war II gave a boost to industrial design, the current economic crisis can provide a boost to social innovation. I see the willingness for radical social innovation in European citizens, but it is also up to other members of society, including policy makers, how big the impact of citizen-driven social innovation will be.
Matthias Ansorg graduated in computer science in 2006, and a year after became a self-employed IT professional. Since then, he is exploring web entrepreneurship, with projects into remanufacturing, P2P markets and novel economic exchange mechanisms. When you ask him a question about anything, he will usually advocate that the answer is, in fact, open source.