Introducing our overview of digital social innovation (DSI) in the field of skills and learning.
A huge amount of activity is currently taking place at the intersection of technology and education, with a multi-billion dollar - and rapidly-growing - edtech market across Europe. Alongside this primarily commercial field is a growing trend of digital social innovation (DSI), which we explore in this introductory report.
This analysis, led by DSI4EU partner Fab Lab Barcelona, finds three main areas of activity of DSI in the field of skills and learning:
DSI initiatives use a range of technologies, including online platforms, digital fabrication technologies, low-cost computers and open-source hardware. There are hundreds of projects, ranging from introducing maker technologies to young people and adults, teaching coding and programming, encouraging digital social entrepreneurship, and supporting coordination, promotion and communication of these technologies through events, conferences, challenges and campaigns. Alongside teaching digital skills, most of the projects seek to promote a range of cognitive and non-cognitive skills, to benefit society more widely, and to reduce inequality and work with under-served groups.
DSI projects in the field of skills and learning are driven by values of community, distribution and decentralisation, and by a commitment to open-source models, access and affordability.
Despite promising growth and some significant successes, DSI projects in the field face challenges around funding, both to start and to scale initiatives, although corporates and some public administrations are providing much-needed support. They also struggle to be accepted and adopted by policymakers, educators and citizens, and (as new concepts) there is relatively little evidence of impact, as well as few formal certifications or qualifications.
Policymakers have a role to play in recognising the importance and social impact of these initiatives, and in helping initiatives (through financial and non-financial support) to better be able to measure and understand that impact. Policymakers can also promote initiatives within formal education routes and build frameworks for recognition and certification. Governments and funders should work more closely and make their money go further by targeting it better (to the best projects, at the right time) and allowing more flexibility within grant and contract agreements. Over the coming months, working with a range of stakeholders, we’ll be continuing to explore how policymakers can support the field.
DSI4EU aims to support the growth and scale of digital social innovation (DSI), tech for good and civic tech in Europe through a programme of policy, research and practical support. This feature is part of a series of introductory texts exploring the landscape, challenges and opportunities for DSI in different social areas. You can find the other features in the series on our main feature page.