Digital technologies and the internet are providing new opportunities to address social challenges. We call this phenomenon digital social innovation (DSI). To explore what DSI is, who is working on it, and how they can be supported, we have launched www.digitalsocial.eu in partnership with the Waag Society and SUPSI, with funding from the European Commission DG Connect. The website features stories and case studies of DSI, along with information on funding and events for DSI. It also helps people and projects working on DSI to showcase their work and find new collaborators.
Between 2012 and 2014, we worked on a major project crowd-mapping over 1,000 organisations across Europe using digital technology for social good. The project also identified the policies and strategic approaches which could help digital social innovation (DSI) to grow and scale.
We found wonderful, inspiring things going on: social networks for people living with chronic health conditions and online platforms for citizen participation in policymaking; websites opening up public spending and crowdfunding campaigns for community projects; kits for measuring urban pollution and apps for sharing underused assets.
Two years on, DSI has come a long way. New organisations, projects and collaborations are popping up across Europe. Terms like crowdfunding, making, sharing economy and digital democracy are entering the mainstream. The number of incubators, accelerators and investment funds focused on tech for good has grown. Emerging technologies like blockchain and widely accessible 3D-printing have given DSI new potential.
But there is still a long way to go. The digital social innovation community is not only incredibly diverse, but also dispersed, with many different networks operating at local, national and international levels. It’s not always easy for digital social innovators to find collaborators and partners. And the market for funding is still relatively small.
To support this still-young community, we have relaunched and given our website at www.digitalsocial.eu a complete overhaul, implementing a number of new features and giving it a totally new look.
We want the new website to be a pan-European hub for people, projects and organisations using digital technologies to address social challenges. The website allows people and projects to showcase their work, learn about DSI in Europe and find collaborators and partners for their work. It also features listings of funding and events across Europe, crowdsourced so that it is up-to-date, open and accessible.
But we can only grow and support you, the DSI community, with your help. 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:
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.