About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Building ecosystems for digital social innovation: tell us what really matters

For the next stage of the DSI Index, we need your input! If you’re involved or interested in DSI, tech for good or civic tech, we want to understand more about what you think helps support a thriving ecosystem. Complete our short survey to have your say.

What we've been up to

Over the past six months we’ve been developing a framework for our experimental DSI Index, the primary aim of which is to help policymakers and other stakeholders understand how they can support DSI, tech for good and civic tech to grow and scale its impact. This is the first stage and over the coming months we’ll begin selecting, gathering, checking and processing data.

Index development path

Building upon previous work such as last year’s What next for digital social innovation?, we've been carrying out interviews, roundtables and a review of the literature to understand the most important factors for starting, sustaining and growing DSI initiatives.

Defining variables

Through this process we have identified 32 factors which are considered important for starting, sustaining and growing DSI initiatives. We’ve then grouped these factors into seven overarching themes. Click on the below to read more about each.

Unsurprisingly, experts have said that funding is important for DSI initiatives at all stages of development. Within this theme, we’ve included factors not just about availability of grant funding and investment, but also of how well-suited this funding is for DSI initiatives, and of how easily DSI initiatives can access procurement channels.
Given the open and multidisciplinary nature of DSI, collaboration (both online and offline) is a key success factor. In our experience, DSI works best when people with different expertise - technology, social challenges, public sector provision and so on - work together. Therefore, within this theme we’ve included indicators about collaboration between civil society, the tech sector and government, as well as online and offline collaboration within the DSI community.
We, and the people we’ve spoken to, believe that more diverse and inclusive communities, environments and sectors (including of different genders, sexes, ethnicities, sexual orientations, abilities, ages and so on) lead to better, more sustainable DSI initiatives. Diverse groups encompass a wider range of interests, experiences, backgrounds and ideas, which is particularly important in the field of DSI where minority groups are more likely to have lived experience of the social challenges which DSI tries to tackle. Furthermore, societies must be digitally inclusive if everyone is to benefit from DSI initiatives, and DSI initiatives are more likely to grow when the population is more digitally skilled. Therefore, this theme includes indicators about the diversity of the tech sector and of civil society, digital inclusion, and government activity to make innovation more inclusive.
Most DSI originates within civil society (in its broadest sense, ranging from charities to community and informal groups). We've found that an active, trusted and developed civil society is important in encouraging the creation of DSI and citizen engagement in DSI. Therefore, this theme encompasses indicators measuring the state of civil society, citizen attitudes towards civil society and public advocacy for DSI.
DSI initiatives’ creation, growth and sustainability is boosted by good infrastructure. This theme encompasses both digital (e.g. broadband and mobile internet, provision of open data) and physical infrastructure (e.g. workspaces, universities, makerspaces, fablabs).
A range of skills are needed for DSI initiatives to grow, including not just technology and knowledge of social challenges but also data skills, service design and co-creation skills, and support skills including business, legal, HR, marketing, design and media. In this theme we include factors focused on these type of skills.
DSI initiatives are helped by the presence of intermediaries and system-level support, allowing them to access skills, knowledge, advice, legal frameworks and more in a structured way. Therefore, within this theme we include indicators about socially-focused business accelerators, incubators and other support intermediaries, ease of starting a business, and the presence of supportive government policy for social purpose initiatives.

Why we need you

The next step is to understand how important Europe’s DSI community considers these different factors to be, relative to one another. Assuming that not all the 32 factors are equally important, it makes sense for the more important ones to have a heavier weighting in the final index than the less important ones.

Ranking these factors isn’t an exact science, and so we want to tap into the collective mind of Europe’s DSI community, hearing from as broad a range of people as possible about what they think helps create a thriving ecosystem. It’s not always an easy exercise - ranking different factors can sometimes seem like trying to compare chalk and cheese - but it’s an essential step in creating an index which reflects reality, and the community’s opinions, as closely as possible.

To that end, if you’re involved in or interested in DSI in any way - practitioner, entrepreneur, researcher, policymaker, frontline worker, funder, investor… - we are asking you to complete a short survey to rank how important you think different themes and factors are to the growth and sustainability of DSI, tech for good and civic tech.

This is your chance to influence the development of the index, which will in turn be used to help policymakers make the right decisions and allocate their funding in the right way to support DSI in cities, regions and countries. Please complete the survey and share it with your colleagues and networks and on social media using the hashtag #DSIIndex.

Let us know if you have any questions by emailing [email protected] and thank you for your support!

To keep up to date with the DSI4EU project, follow us on Twitter and sign up to our mailing list. If you work with a DSI organisation or project, create a profile on the DSI4EU platform at digitalsocial.eu/register.


Jonathan Bone

Jonathan Bone

Jonathan Bone

Mission Manager, healthy life mission

Jonathan works within Nesta Cymru (Wales), focusing on working across public, private and non-profit sectors to deliver innovative solutions that tackle obesity and loneliness in Wales.

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Codrina Cretu

Codrina Cretu

Codrina Cretu

Mission Manager, sustainable future mission

Codrina is mission manager for the sustainable future mission.

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Matt Stokes

Matt Stokes

Matt Stokes

Senior Researcher, Government Innovation

Matt was a senior researcher working on the collaborative economy and digital social innovation.

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