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.

Sharing lessons about digital social innovation: Join us in London

As part of the EU-funded DSI4EU project, we’ve developed the www.digitalsocial.eu platform over the past year to map and share information about the projects and organisations using tools like open hardware, open data and crowdsourcing to tackle social challenges. We call this phenomenon digital social innovation (DSI).

We’ve seen a massive growth in the amount of DSI happening across Europe - and some inspiring examples of DSI delivering social impact at scale. But we are still far from making the most of the opportunities it presents.

On May 16th, we’ll be sharing what we’ve learned from the project and hearing from practitioners, policymakers and funders to explore some of the big issues in DSI at the moment.

Below is an outline of some of the key themes we’ll be discussing. Register your interest for the event or find more information, including the day’s full agenda. Hope to see you there!

Learning from Europe’s DSI networks and understanding the role of cities in supporting and making the most of DSI

Much of the growth of DSI in Europe has been supported by network facilitators providing tools, networks and knowledge-sharing platforms for people interested in getting started on using open data, making and other methods of tackling local social challenges. We’ll be welcoming speakers from four of them to discuss lessons from their work on supporting DSI and what support is needed to take DSI to the next level: Tomas Diez (Fab Foundation), Anna Sienicka (TechSoup), Mark Cridge (mySociety) and Sander van der Waal (Open Knowledge International).

How can we support DSI in cities?

DSI offers particular opportunities in cities, where there is a density of people, assets, data - and social challenges, and we are now beginning to see cities taking strategic approaches to DSI. In ‘DSI in the city’ Francesca Bria (City of Barcelona), Renato Galliano (City of Milan) and Ger Baron (City of Amsterdam) will be discussing how DSI can be integrated with public services and how to build a city environment in which DSI can grow to deliver impact at scale.

What are the sustainable business models out there?

As part of the DSI4EU project, WeMake and SUPSI have developed a sustainability toolkit aimed at early-stage projects to help them think about the business models available, impact measurement and routes to sustainability. We’ll be testing out the toolkit on live projects and discussing different approaches towards developing sustainable business models, all the way from market-based models to open-source models. Zoe Romano (WeMake) will be joined by  experts from Bethnal Green Ventures, mySociety and the Danish Design Center.

How can we build skills and capacities within charities, community groups and social enterprises to make the most of DSI?

To date the vast majority of DSI has been developed by new ventures, with established charities, grassroots organisations and social enterprises struggling to get to grips with the phenomenon. This presents both a significant challenge and opportunity for growth of DSI. With speakers from CAST, DotEveryone and Good Things Foundation, we’ll be discussing how to build the digital skills and capacity of established charities, grassroots organisations and social enterprises and improve collaboration between these and the DSI community.

How to fund and invest in DSI

Given the range of business models used by DSI projects, it’s no surprise that there is an equally diverse set of approaches to funding and investing in DSI, from large-scale impact investment to small local grant funding. Join Elisa Lindinger (Prototype Fund), Duncan Brown (Shift) and Helen Gironi (Nesta Impact Investments) as we ask: When are these methods appropriate for what; how can funders and investors approach DSI; and what do practitioners need to do to access funding and investment?

A manifesto for DSI

In spite of the growth of DSI  the community still needs a voice on a European level. To address this the Collective Awareness Platforms (CAPSSI) programme have been developing a manifesto for digital social innovation which will identify the key priorities for DSI in Europe. Help shape the manifesto by taking part in a workshop lead by the CHiC consortia on EU priorities for DSI.  

Get inspired

The day will end as we reflect on what emerging technology means for the future of DSI. For example, as developments in block-chain and machine learning continue, we’ll be thinking about how DSI is positioned to solve problems in the future in a diverse range of fields - from transparent supply chains to a more democratic internet.

At the heart of digitalsocial.eu are the inspiring stories of the social impact that DSI is having in the world. Throughout the day we will also be discussing current and future opportunities in what DSI can help achieve with some of our favourite projects who are taking on a wide range of challenges - from Techfugees’ work supporting refugees and OpenCorporates’ effort to shine a light on the work of big corporations, to Making Sense’s quest to improve our understanding of the environment and The Open Voice Factory’s open-source software giving a voice to those with communication difficulties.

May 17th - a tour of London's DSI community

Following the ‘What next for digital social innovation?’ event, you will be able to join fellow practitioners, policy makers, and civil society groups from across Europe on a tour of some of London’s most exciting DSI centres. In partnership with the best of London’s Tech for Good organisations, including the Open Data Institute, Bethnal Green Ventures, Makerversity, Center for Acceleration of Social Technology (CAST) and Machines Room, you will have the opportunity to visit a number of venues and gain an overview of some amazing projects which are delivering real social impact. 

Join Us!

Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to hear, see and connect with the most exciting DSI projects in Europe and help shape the agenda for the years to come. We hope to see you there!

‘What next for Digital Social Innovation?’ will be held at Nesta, London, on the 16th May. Find more information, including a full agenda, and register your interest here.


Toby Baker

Toby Baker

Toby Baker

Mission Manager, A Fairer Start

Toby worked with local governments to develop and pilot improvements to services that support young children and families.

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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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Peter Baeck

Peter Baeck

Peter Baeck

Director of the Centre for Collective Intelligence Design

Peter leads work that explores how combining human and machine intelligence can develop innovative solutions to social challenges.

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