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.

What might the future of digital social innovation look like?

We hear a lot about how technological developments such as automation, surveillance technologies and AI are going to negatively impact society. At DSI4EU, we want to propose an alternative, positive vision for the future where technology offers a net benefit to society, not just problems. With this in mind, we're excited to launch our new programme of work on DSI Futures. This will be composed of two parts - trend analysis carried out by betterplace lab, and building of future scenarios by Nesta. In this blog, Codrina Cretu from Nesta introduces the future scenarios work.

Society today is facing challenges that are radically different from those we faced just decades ago. From steady global population growth and resulting sustainability concerns, to climate change and its wide-reaching effects, to a rapidly ageing population and increasing healthcare demands across society, to democratic backsliding and refugee and migrant flows, the nature of social and environmental concerns is constantly shifting.

While the DSI4EU project is working to support DSI initiatives tackling some of today’s most pressing social and environmental concerns, we think it’s also important for us to actively think about what the future holds and about our role in shaping it. We believe that with a better understanding of what future social and environmental challenges might look like and of how digital technologies might evolve in the near future, we stand a better chance of achieving our more positive vision for the future.

We’ve launched our new programme of work on DSI Futures with this goal in mind. The work is composed of two parts. Firstly, our partners at betterplace lab will be conducting trend analysis research to identify some of today’s emerging trends and analyse how they might affect DSI in the coming decade. You can read more about their plans here.

Meanwhile, at Nesta, we are working to build a set of speculative, positive future scenarios for how we, as societies, might be using open and collaborative technologies to tackle social challenges in ten years’ time, and to provide recommendations to policymakers, funders and other stakeholders on how to lay the path towards these positive futures. Our research will be exploring future scenarios related to five of our six DSI clusters: healthcare, skills and learning, democratic participation, migration and integration, and the environment. We’ll be conducting a series of interviews and workshops through which we’ll engage and consult a wide range of experts, practitioners and policy-makers.

Rainbow Bridge, Japan

We know that the future isn't something that happens to us, it's something we can actively shape. We believe that there’s a huge potential for technology to be a tool for empowerment, education, democracy and community cohesion. However, we could also be facing a future where technological power continues to be consolidated in the hands of a few large corporations and the principles of ethical technology and data for good continue to be neglected in the single-minded quest for profit. With this work, we hope that we can play a small part in contributing to the development of technology which benefits us all and which equips us to tackle the big challenges of the present and of the future.

To keep up to date with the DSI4EU work, follow us on Twitter and sign up to our mailing list. If you work within the field DSI and are interested in our research or know someone else who might be, drop us a line on [email protected].

Image: @agkdesign | Unsplash.com


Codrina Cretu

Codrina Cretu

Codrina Cretu

Mission Manager, sustainable future mission

Codrina is mission manager for the sustainable future mission.

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