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Launching the European Digital Social Innovation Index

Cities are a hotbed for DSI, but what makes a city a good environment for DSI to grow and thrive? The answer to this question is fundamental for policymakers and DSI organisations alike. Governments need to know what their cities are good at, where there’s room for improvement, and what they can do to improve. DSI organisations need to know where would support them to succeed.

That's why we built the European Digital Social Innovation Index (EDSII), the first tool to rank how different cities support digital social innovation (DSI) and tech for good to grow and thrive.

In this blog we discuss our research over the past eighteen months and share and the key findings of the EDSII.

View all research related to the EDSII, including the full methodology, discussion and data visualisation.

The six themes of the European DSI Index

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Background

Over the past five years, we and our partners have mapped the people, projects and organisations using technology to tackle social challenges, defined and classified the field and researched barriers to growth, giving us a strong understanding of what the landscape looks like across the EU. We’ve known for a long time that DSI activity is growing across the EU, but until now we hadn’t systematically looked at what supports the creation, growth and sustainability of DSI, or explored how different city ecosystems compare.

The Index ranks 60 EU cities on how their ecosystems support DSI, based on 32 indicators grouped into six themes: Funding; Skills; Civil Society; Collaboration; Infrastructure; and Diversity and Inclusion.

We believe that by understanding how cities are performing in different areas, and by stimulating some friendly competition, we can incentivise policymakers to proactively support DSI. And through our accompanying Ideas Bank, we want to increase sharing, adaptation and collaboration between cities.

Methodology

We spent the first six months of the research developing the theoretical framework, and then chose the cities for the Index. We originally gathered data for 65 cities, chosen on the basis of their size, known DSI activity and data availability, and to ensure good representation across the EU.

We then began to source and analyse data, ranging from nationally-collected statistics to data scraped from platforms like Meetup, Eventbrite and Twitter. We checked the data for outliers, normalised data and imputed missing values, then carried out multivariate analysis (exploring how different indicators change in relation to each other), weighting and aggregation (turning the individual indicators into composite theme and city scores), sensitivity analysis (checking the accuracy of the data checking methods we used) and data validation (comparing Index scores to known levels of DSI activity). During this process we also removed five cities (including two EU capitals, Valletta and Luxembourg City) due to missing data, and turned the original seven themes into six.

Results

Check out the interactive data visualisation

The overall ranking, taken from our interactive data visualisation

The main index ranking

This process of data collection and analysis led us to a final ranking of cities, which you can explore in our interactive data visualisation. It’s important to remember that the EDSII focuses on the characteristics of ecosystems at the macro level, and therefore doesn’t take into account, for example, specific policies, initiatives or strategies developed by city or national governments to support DSI. Nevertheless, here are our key takeaways from the EDSII ranking.

  • London is a long way in the lead, thanks to its strong performance on all themes, including a top ten ranking in five of the six themes. London does particularly well on Skills, with a high number of research institutions working on subjects relevant to DSI, and access to employees with data science, software development and service design skills; Collaboration, with a strong culture of collaboration between civil society, the tech sector and the public sector, as well as a large and active community of people engaged with the field; and Infrastructure, with good open data provision at the national and city level, significant support for socially-focused businesses such as accelerators, incubators and co-working spaces, and access to digital fabrication and manufacturing facilities.
  • Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Paris take the other top spots, all ranking in the top ten for at least three themes. Like London, these cities are well-known as a home for digital entrepreneurship and innovation. Madrid, Brussels, Utrecht, Barcelona and Edinburgh round off the top ten cities.
  • Northern and Western Europe overwhelmingly dominate the top half of the rankings (28 out of 30 places). Spain is the only country in Southern Europe with any cities in the top half, and Eastern Europe has none (Ljubljana just misses out in 31st place).
  • There is a relatively weak correlation between supportive ecosystems for DSI and known DSI activity. This came as something of a surprise to us, as we had expected a strong correlation: it stands to reason that a supportive ecosystem for DSI would result in a lot of DSI activity, and vice versa. We explore the possible reasons for this in a separate discussion blog.

You can read about more of the insights from the Index in the full methodology report, such as how cities cluster together on particular themes and overall scores, on how different themes correlate to each other and to overall scores, and on how cities at the top and bottom tend to be more robust under sensitivity analysis than cities in the middle.

We’ve made the methodology and data open, so that anyone can build upon the EDSII and tailor it - for example, if they wanted to lend particular weight to particular themes, or prioritise indicators within a theme (e.g. grant funding over impact investment, or gender equality over socioeconomic equality).

All in all, we hope the EDSII will help policymakers understand what helps DSI to thrive in cities, where they need to focus energy and resources, and what they can do to better the ecosystem. We’d love to hear what you think - please do drop us a line at [email protected] with any feedback, comments, questions or opinions.

Download data and sources used in the Index

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Author

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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Jonathan Bone

Jonathan Bone

Jonathan Bone

Senior Researcher, New Technology and Startups

Jonathan is a senior researcher in the New Technology and Startups team.

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Codrina Cretu

Codrina Cretu

Codrina Cretu

Researcher, Digital Social Innovation

Codrina will be working in the Digital Social Innovation team with research, events, policy engagement and project management work.

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