Why are we doing this?
Big advances in technology – such as the open source and open data movements, low-cost hardware, crowdsourcing and internet of things – provide new ways of delivering public services and delivering social impact in fields as diverse as healthcare, education, democracy, environment, transport and housing. They are particularly well-suited to empowering citizens, involving them in their communities and engaging them in civic action.
We use the term digital social innovation (DSI) to refer to the growing movement of people, projects and organisations using digital technologies to tackle some of society's biggest problems.
We believe that DSI has the potential to dramatically improve the way our public services, communities and businesses work.
However, we need to answer a number of questions to realise the potential of DSI. What does the current landscape look like? Who are the people and projects pioneering DSI in Europe? What support do DSI projects need to grow? What are the barriers they face? How can public policy support DSI? How can we understand and measure the impact of DSI?
At the same time, we want to actively support the DSI community right now, by helping people to find collaborators, funding, events and inspiration.on.
What are we doing?
In 2012, the European Commission commissioned Nesta, The Waag Society and Esade Business School to map out and explore the European DSI community. We crowdmapped over 1,000 organisations and 700 projects in the DSI field and identified an enthusiastic and diverse community which needed help to grow.
Following on from this work, in partnership with the Waag Society and SUPSI, we are leading a project called Digital Social Innovation for Europe (DSI4EU).
At the heart of the project is a new platform, www.digitalsocial.eu, which has four main functions:
DSI practitioners can showcase their work and tag themselves as part of networks, so that we can build up our understanding of the DSI landscape.
DSI practitioners can search to find other organisations and projects, so that they can build their own networks and identify possible collaborators.
DSI practitioners can find listings of funding and support opportunities along with DSI-related events across Europe.
All those interested in DSI can find stories of innovation, including case studies and blogs, about DSI in Europe.
Alongside the platform, we have been exploring other ways of measuring DSI activity, and understanding barriers to growth. Our partners at SUPSI have developed a sustainability toolkit to help innovators develop their projects. We have also hosted a series of events that have helped us to engage with and learn about DSI and to involve policymakers in DSI.
This work fed into our final report, 'What next for digital social innovation? Realising the potential of people and technology to tackle social challenges', published in May 2017. We launched this at a full-day conference attended by over 170 people from across Europe.
To find out more about DSI, take a look at the case studies and blogs on our dedicated platform. The final report of the first DSI project, 'Growing a Digital Social Innovation Ecosystem for Europe', contains more case studies and background to the field.
If you’d like to know more, please contact [email protected].