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Developing Robust SI Ecosystems to Foster Social Value Creation

Tamami Komatsu Cipriani, UNIBO/POLIMI

Fluctuating political mandates, rapid technological advances, market changes, fiscal constraints and changing and emerging social needs all contribute to the dynamic environment surrounding the public sector. #Socinn has proven to be effective in managing these factors to produce social goods that create and deliver social and economic value. They, however, face the challenges of creating viable #bizmodels able to guarantee the sustainability of the solution, while the public sector faces the challenge of ensuring equal access and thus the #scalingup of successful SI solutions.

SIs, however, are extremely #contextdependent not only in the definition and nature of the social problem they are addressing, but also in the support they receive. According to the empirical research done by the EU project SIMPACT (2016),  which focused on uncovering the economic underpinnings of SI, most SIs were able to find sustainability by creating territorial networks of in-kind support, enlarging their organizational boundaries beyond the organization itself and into the local context (Komatsu et al., 2016). This makes scaling up efforts quite difficult as most solutions are sustainable thanks to these forms of cost-saving support rather than on replicable, market-based solutions. In other words, in most cases, the ways that social innovators are able to create sustainable solutions is through #frugal models that save on cost rather than depending on extremely profitable goods/services. For example, Progetto QUID, a socially responsible and eco-friendly fashion label based in Verona, Italy, owes much of its success to the solid network of partners that it was able to establish in its initial development phases (Terstriep et al., 2015). This network not only provided financial and operating support, but also, much needed know-how and expertise. As the social cooperative is based in Veneto’s fast-fashion industrial district, they could more easily find competent and willing partners with a large resource base of built up know-how. The system of actors supporting the SI solution is thus extremely important, not only in forming the response to the social problem but also in implementing and sustaining the solution. Simply replicating a solution, along with its sustainability plan, in another local context often proves impossible, as the original conditions that supported the solution are often not present, both in terms of cultural support or resistance and in terms of available resources.

For this reason, in order to really empower SIs and scale impact, the entire #environment or #ecosystem surrounding SI needs to be considered, i.e. the comprehensive organizational, institutional and cultural setting in which the SI is embedded and thus the context of roles, functions, structures and norms must be considered and designed for (Kaletka, Markmann and Pelka, 2016).

Questions thus arise as to what the #enablingfactors of SI are and how an enabling SI environment can be developed? Should more focus be spent on developing an #enablingplatform for SI or embedding a system-wide #culture able to more quickly receive and boost SIs than on the single SI?  While literature has been working on this topic, more experimentation can be done to answer these important questions.


Deserti, A., Rizzo, F., & Komatsu Cipriani, T. (Forthcoming). Context dependency of social innovation: in search of new sustainability models. European Planning Studies.

Kaletka, C., Markmann, M., & Pelka, B. (2016). Peeling the Onion. An Exploration of the Layers of Social Innovation Ecosystems: Modelling a context sensitive perspective on driving and hindering factors for social innovation. European Public Social & Social Innovation Review,1(2), 83-93.

Komatsu, T., Deserti, A., Rizzo, F. & Celi, M. (2016). Design tools to build sustainable business models for social innovation. DMI: Academic Design Management Conference (pp. 858-877). Boston.

Rizzo, F., Deserti, A., & Komatsu Cipriani, T. (Forthcoming). The reactive and proactive features of social innovation and the role of design. Strategic Design Research Journal.

Terstriep, J., Kleverbeck, M., Deserti, A. & Rizzo, F. (2015). “Comparative Report on Social Innovation across Europe”, Deliverable D3.2 of the project ‘Boosting the Impact of SI in Europe through Economic Underpinnings’ (SIMPACT), European Commission – 7th Framework Programme. Brussels: European Commission, DG Research & Innovation.