New research and funding to support grassroots innovation and the collaborative economy in Europe
Last week I participated in the Ouishare Festival, as a panelist in a session together with Fabrizio Sestini from the European Commission, head of the Collective Awareness (CAPS) projects portfolio. D-CENT was presented as a flagship project of CAPS that can inspire a new wave of innovation building open, decentralized and privacy-aware digital infrastructures for citizens’ engagement and democratic participation.
The development of open data infrastructures, knowledge co-creation platforms, wireless sensor networks, decentralized social networking, crypto currencies, and open hardware can potentially serve collective action and help scaling the collaborative economy and strengthen open digital ecosystems based on the commons.
Today the growth of digital services has resulted in an imbalance between the dramatic scale and reach of commercial Internet models and the relative weakness of collaborative alternatives, mainly filling marginal niches and unable to gather a critical mass of users and exploit the network effect. However, the European Commission is creating new funding instruments and policies to support grassroots social innovators and encourage citizens participation within the framework of the Digital Agenda for Europe, and in particular the CHEST project providing seed funding and other 30M€ in the CAPS call in Horizons 2020.
During the OuiShare festival we also shared Nesta’s experience in implementing specific EU funded projects, providing some tips and tricks and discuss what it can be learned from our projects. For instance we presented D-CENT and the Digital Social crowdmapping infrastructure that visualizes different types of Digital Social Innovation organizations and projects and their relational networks. By joining the network organisations can discover new funding opportunities, find the right partners, share skills and knowledge, and find support to develop and scale your collaborative project. This initiative will inform future EC actions, research and policy to foster open and inclusive innovation for social good in Europe.
The big challenges for the EU are how to make it easier for small scale radical innovations involving digital technology and sharing to emerge and evolve, but perhaps more important how to create the conditions for the really powerful ones to get to scale in areas such as open democracy, collaborative economy, open access, public services and sustainable energy– which will nearly always involve disrupting existing structures and institutions, building new collective institutions and infrastructures for the XXI century.
We are confident that both D-CENT and DSI can test and build digital tools that will allow radical experimentations in this important new policy area.