Launching the digital social innovation toolkit

As part of the DSI4EU project, the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland (SUPSI) and WeMake, a creative community in Milan, have developed the Digital Social Innovation Toolkit. In this blog, Serena Cangiano, FabLab manager and researcher at SUPSI, describes the purpose and usage of the toolkit.

The Digital Social Innovation toolkit is the result of an experimental programme that, from April 2016 to May 2017, involved makers, researchers, practitioners in workshops, talks and online meetups, in which participants worked to understand how open hardware and maker projects with a social purpose scale.

During the programme we explored several challenges such as:

  • How to support the sustainable scalability of projects that are initiated by groups of citizens, makers and associations and therefore rarely follow established organisational models?

  • What kind of approaches can facilitate growth, where the concept of scaling does not correspond merely to financial sustainability or business opportunities?

These questions inspired the release of the Digital Social Innovation Toolkit, a collection of case studies, tools, and curated resources to help digital social innovations from within the maker movement scale.

What is in the toolkit?

The toolkit is based on the contribution of the people who participated to the DSI4EU programme carried out by myself and Zoe Romano, founder and craftivist at WeMake.

It opens with a brief essay that describes the programme undertaken. A second section presents the main tool, the DSI Scale, which attempts to bring a bottom-up perspective to the challenge of measuring and designing for scale by considering values such as knowledge-sharing and technological openness.

The third provides a selection of resources to introduce innovators to key subjects and skills to plan for growth within the current social innovation ecosystem. The fourth consists of interviews with four women who are developing projects in the fields of open hardware, making and technological education, in which they share knowledge, best practices and problem solving tactics.

Finally, the toolkit contains a short kit to allow anyone to become a “DSI ambassador” in 10 steps.

Where possible we have sought to make sure the toolkit builds on and shares best practice.

Throughout the toolkit we feature stories and resources from other people’s initiatives, research, toolkits and projects.

How to use the toolkit

The toolkit is addressed mainly to makers involved in open hardware projects who can:

1. Share their perspective on scalability by using the DSI Scale tool, a conceptual scale that helps to self-assess DSI strategies considering indicators such as the level of openness or the community engagement.

Six case studies, associated with the DSI Scale indicators, help to demonstrate how to define successful strategies for a sustainable growth.

2. Explore different resources related to subjects that span from social media mapping and the creation of business models that promote openness as a key advantage for scaling, to the use of collaborative approaches to facilitate the integration of diverse groups of people.

Open and iterative

The toolkit has been designed based on open principles and we hope that it will be expanded upon online in ongoing research work looking at how to support the growth of Digital Social Innovation in Europe. You can contribute to this work by suggesting new DSI Scales and tools via the web version of the toolkit at


Serena Cangiano

Serena is FabLab Manager, researcher and interaction designer. In Lugano (CH), she coordinates Maind, a master program combining design, technology and making. She is interested in ope…