Why are we doing this?
The past few years have seen a rapid growth in the number of people using digital technologies to tackle social challenges in areas ranging from healthcare and education to democracy and the environment. This phenomenon, which we call digital social innovation (DSI), aims to:
- Harness digital technologies to improve lives and reorient technology towards more social ends;
- Empower citizens to take more control over their lives, and to use their collective knowledge and skills to positive effect;
- Make government more accountable and transparent;
- Foster and promote alternatives to the dominant technological and business models — alternatives which are open and collaborative rather than closed and competitive;
- Use technology to create a more environmentally sustainable society.
Despite the many inspiring initiatives taking place across Europe and the world, relatively few have grown to deliver positive social impact at scale, for a range of reasons which we and others have explored in depth.
The DSI4EU project (Digital Social Innovation for Europe) aims to support the growth and scale of DSI (or “tech for good”) in Europe, and to help bring it into the mainstream of civil society, the public sector and governance.
What are we doing?
In 2012, the European Commission commissioned Nesta, Waag Society and Esade to map out and explore the emergent DSI community. The study brought to light a vibrant community using technology to tackle social challenges all across Europe.
The DSI4EU project (2016-17) continued this work, including developing an online hub for DSI in Europe (digitalsocial.eu), organising a series of events and workshops, creating an interactive data visualisation of DSI across Europe, and exploring what’s holding back the growth of DSI. The findings of this research were published in our report 'What next for digital social innovation?', which we launched at a full-day conference in May 2017.
The next phase of DSI4EU kicked off in January 2018. Between now and June 2019, Nesta and its six partners from across Europe will:
- Continue to grow and facilitate the digitalsocial.eu platform, through which people can showcase their work, explore the DSI community, and find funding, support, events and stories about DSI;
- Coordinate six DSI clusters, each focusing on a different social area, which will organise series of events, learning and networking opportunities;
- Build new connections in Europe’s DSI community, acting as a source of help and support for all those interested in DSI;
- Engage with policymakers and key influencers at the European, national and city levels to shape the future of DSI;
- Develop an experimental index to understand more about how policymakers are supporting DSI across Europe, which will highlight best practice and spur collaboration between countries and cities;
- Carry out exciting research into emerging technologies like blockchain and artificial intelligence and assessing what they mean for DSI.
We want to support the breadth of Europe’s growing DSI community — including practitioners, charities interested in technology-driven solutions, policymakers, funders and engaged citizens.
Here are a some of the ways you can get involved. We’d love to hear from you.
- Create a profile on digitalsocial.eu. By making a profile for your organisation and/or project on the digitalsocial.eu website, you'll make yourself more visible to citizens, commissioners, funders and new contacts, and support our research. We want the platform to be the most comprehensive directory of DSI in Europe, and we need your help to get there.
- Drop us an email. We are always keen to speak to people working on DSI, to explore potential collaborations, to help share your work, to speak at and attend events, or just to exchange experiences and lessons.
- Follow us on Twitter and sign up to our DSI newsletter.
To find out more about DSI, take a look at the case studies and blogs on digitalsocial.eu. The final report of the first DSI project, 'Growing a Digital Social Innovation Ecosystem for Europe', contains more case studies and background to the field.