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SEiSMiC, Societal Engagement in Science, Mutual learning in Cities

Final Report Summary - SEISMIC (SEiSMiC, Societal Engagement in Science, Mutual learning in Cities)

Executive Summary:
The project Societal Engagement in Science, Mutual Learning in Cities (SEiSMiC), was FP-7 funded by the European Commission in line with the principles of responsible research and innovation (RRI). The central idea behind SEiSMiC was to feed JPI Urban Europe with the ideas, dreams and needs of civil society for European urban research, to illustrate the power of social innovations in facing the societal challenges of European cities; to experiment with multi-level dialogue and mutual learning processes; and to inspire European policy making with the richness of social innovators’ ideas. Implemented between 2013 and 2016, SEiSMiC created national networks in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom, bringing together a wide variety of social initiatives, grassroots movements, social innovators, social entrepreneurs, citizens, NGOs, interest groups, freelancers, educators, scientists and policy makers. Participants met regularly within each country, and a selection of them attended international meetings and transnational working groups.
SEiSMiC built national and international bridges for mutual learning between society, the scientific community and policy makers. The aims were to mobilise a wide range of urban actors to identify research and innovation needs; contribute to the social dimension of JPI Urban Europe’s research and innovation agenda; develop policy recommendations that address real social needs; and create a platform for dialogue and mutual learning among citizens and urban actors to strengthen social innovation in a local context.
Results in influencing European urban research
SEiSMiC differs from many other research projects on urban change because of its unique methodological and epistemolo- gical stance. It is not an empirical study carried out by individual researchers working in isolation. In SEiSMiC, the boundaries between the researcher and the object of study are almost non-existent. Unconventional methodological approaches, the involvement of citizens, and the mobilization of people and ideas through local events in cities are all part of the research strategy. The creation of new social relationships between social entrepreneurs, urban activists, citizens and researchers is in accord with the definitions of social innovation in academic literature. SEiSMiC made a significant contribution to JPI’s Scientific Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA). The notion that more interand transdisciplinary urban research is needed — with the involvement of nonacademic experts and stakeholders — to analyse the complex challenges cities are facing is strengthened by the message of SEiSMiC’s social innovators. New frameworks are called for to tap the full potential of social entrepreneurship, social innovations, and shared economy. Creative quantitative and qualitative research is needed to grasp the complex, interrelated and competing factors influencing cities’ social, economic and environmental sustainability. New strategies are needed to combine advances in economic opportunities with social innovation in order to create open, inclusive, cohesive and more liveable cities. And, of course, social innovators, civil initiatives and grassroots movements call for fewer barriers to their participation in scientific urban research and tenders. Some of the most active participants in the SEiSMiC national networks will continue to contribute ideas and experiences via JPI Urban Europe’s Stakeholder Involvement Platform. In this way, SEiSMiC’s influence on JPI’s scientific urban research will continue long after the end of the project.
Results in influencing European policy making
During the three years of project implementation, SEiSMiC served as a living and lively laboratory for urban, social and open innovation. Everywhere in Europe citizens call for more green, better connected and stronger — more inclusive, less anonymous — communities. When local, urban, regional and European policies can contribute to this widely shared vision of European citizens, the gap between citizens and public policy making can diminish. Other directions of policy making that are strongly linked to the needs of civil society are the call for new modes of participatory governance; finding new balance between representative and participatory governance; including citizens in social innovations in mobility, urban planning and urban renovation; and finding solutions to make better use of empty public property. Also, new business models that promote social entrepreneurship and the sharing economy should be stimulated. In SEiSMiC’s national networks, youngsters in particular voiced the need to find a better balance between temporary, non-paid, work-learning, “voluntary” contracts and traditional permanent labour contracts. More open procurement policies for less traditional and less formal social innovators and less cumbersome financing models for business would strongly enhance EU efforts to achieve sustainable, inclusive and liveable urban futures.
Results in stimulating mutual learning among social innovators
From SEiSMiC’s three years of experimentation in mutual learning between a wide variety of civil society actors from different countries it became clear that there are approaches that stimulate international exchanges and learning processes. Seeing and explaining social innovations in practice (“walkshops”) stimulates mutual learning. Organising encounters in non-traditional meeting places and sharing examples of social innovation creates better dynamics among participants. Also, narratives, case studies, filmed meetings and visualising the ideas of participants are good practices to stimulate mutual learning between a large variety of civil society actors. One of the intriguing experiences of SEiSMiC’s mutual learning process is that citizens are better at visualising their ideas than experts, scientists and policy makers. Therefore, the visualization and “language” of civil society is complementary and an added value to the traditional policy discourse of experts.
Discovery of good practices
In mobilising a wide range of urban actors from civil society in 10 countries, SEiSMiC came across many social innovation good practices that enhance the inclusive, sustainable and liveable future of European cities. These good practices include concrete tools to stimulate social innovations; new approaches to exchange via Internet cartographic tools used by groups of citizens; hotels run by migrants; the stronger involvement of women in the governance of cities; charters for the use of public space; and a focus on storytelling as an essential element of community building at the beginning of projects.

Project Context and Objectives:
The SEiSMiC project succeeded in mobilizing a wide range of urban actors (e.g. civil society, social innovators and entrepreneurs) to identify research and innovation needs, commonalities and differences across European cities with regard to social innovation, thus allowing them to make valuable contributions to the social dimension of JPI Urban Europe’s research and innovation agenda. Less clear, or not yet apparent, is the level of achievement concerning objectives to build bridges between the scientific community, civil society and policy makers, and thus to create a platform that both enables dialogue and mutual learning for citizens and urban actors on social innovation for the future; and stimulates initiatives and projects between stakeholders.
Lessons learned
SEiSMiC aimed to set up national networks with a broad set of stakeholders from various disciplines — academia, policy-making authorities, civil society and business — to generate discussion and input relevant for research and policy priorities in a European context. Another goal was to provide forums for knowledge exchange and joint activities across national borders. Based on the experiences of NaNet coordinators in the 10 countries, we can draw a few conclusions concerning strategies for setting up national networks, and also offer an assessment of SEiSMiC’s potential long-term gains. Setting up a network that stretches across established sectors requires dedicated effort and an elaborate strategy to frame topics and identify, approach and convince key actors to join. The strategies applied by the NaNet coordinators reflect national circumstances — for example how social innovation is framed in a national context, what organisations and initiatives are already operating, the mobilisation capacity of coordinating organisations and their networks, or the available number of personal contacts from previous projects. Key elements of successful strategies include cooperating with existing initiatives to organize events; defining topics and formats together with stakeholders; defining and communicating the added value of the network; teaming up with social innovators in other countries to influence EU policies; expanding networks by meeting with people outside immediate circles; and taking the time and effort to connect with people, build trust and learn about their agendas and priorities. The main challenges of running a network over time is to keep people engaged between meetings, to maintain a balance between informality and structure at meetings, and to accomplish as much as possible within time and resource constraints. One important lesson for the future is that it is important to understand and adapt to the different logics of the actors you want to involve, and to have enough funding to finance international co-creation. Relative to the JPI Urban Europe research programme, SEiSMiC has contributed to a deeper understanding of the social dimension of urban development, which in turn has influenced future research priorities. Effects of SEiSMiC at the national level include shifting opinion on social innovation; helping to frame social innovation in an urban development context; establishing local groups that will continue after SEiSMiC; and disrupting the outmoded agendas of established organisations. In all countries, meetings were initiated that would not have taken place without SEiSMiC — and these meetings could prove to be the seeds of future activities.

Project Results:
The Legacy and impact of SEiSMiC includes intangible aspects such as how SEiSMiC, together with other networks and projects, has potentially created a new awareness of the ways in which social innovation can bring about change in society and a better understanding of how social innovators work, what their motives are and the conditions in which they work. SEiSMiC has potentially reinforced the concept of “social innovation” and made it more meaningful. It has also defined what a social innovation-friendly society is. At the final SEiSMiC event, five general conclusions about the achievements were presented.
1. Sustainable urban transition requires close co-operation between various stakeholders that enables them to understand transdisciplinary activities in practice.
2. Co-creation leads to more timely, efficient and appropriate solutions. When more stakeholders are involved, capacity is increased through voluntary work and financial resources are saved.
3. It is a challenge to transfer socially innovative ideas between European cities since the ideas and solutions are largely context-dependent.
4. SEiSMiC provided a stage for social enterprises and introduced new perspectives on economy, business models and social benefits etc.
5. SEiSMiC was innovative and used extraordinary methods such as sketches, performances by the New VIC theatre, walkshops etc.

There is also a legacy in the remaining activities, products and lessons learned from the actual experiences of establishing and managing the national networks and initiating co-productive activities. All SEiSMiC reports and materials are available at the SEiSMiC website until the end of 2018. The hands-on experiences from establishing national stakeholder networks have been described in a practice-based guide aimed at the individuals and organisations that will be responsible for establishing national stakeholder networks related to the JPI Urban Europe stakeholder involvement platform in the coming years.
Added value of SEiSMiC
The added value of SEiSMiC has been described from the perspective of the main stakeholder groups, i.e. at national level, European institutions including JPI Urban Europe, and the stakeholders engaged in national networks.
National level
At national level, SEiSMiC has brought together a diverse range of stakeholders that would not otherwise have met and formed a community. The conclusions in the interim
evaluation report and from interviews with co-ordinators state that the perceived added value of the national activities differed between countries in the three subgroups, i.e. in countries belonging to the “advanced” subgroup there was less interest in the national network meetings. In these countries, social innovation was not a new issue. Initiatives were already established and organisations in place to provide meeting places for social innovators. In the countries belonging to the “advanced” subgroup, national co-ordinators needed to promote opportunities for international knowledge exchange among social innovators with direct contact with European Commission representatives as the added value in this particular network. In the countries in the “lagging” subgroup, SEiSMiC helped establish a social innovation community. In some cases, it also partly contributed to the development of a new paradigm in urban policy that recognised the need for cross-sector collaboration and multidisciplinary approaches, and it introduced new collaborative methods and discussion formats. Although SEiSMiC did not directly advance the position of social innovation in the countries in the “advanced” subgroup, it has left a strong legacy, which demonstrates that civil society and social innovation initiatives conducted by community enterprises only need a small amount of funding in order to survive and carry out their activities.
European level including JPI Urban Europe
The most obvious impact at European level is probably in relation to JPI Urban Europe. Thanks to SEiSMiC, Urban Europe was able to reach out to a new, wider network of social innovation and urban development stakeholders, to identify urban and social issues through mutual learning activities and cross-sector collaboration, and to create a pan-European platform of experts and professionals in the field. Without SEiSMiC this would have not been achieved due to a lack of resources, capacity and know-how. SEiSMiC successfully identified research priorities and relevant issues that were taken into account when setting up the strategic innovation research agenda (SRIA). The project served as a vehicle to strengthen relationships between different agencies such as researchers, policy makers, civil society and social innovators. The value in these relationships is the increased capacity to disseminate Urban Europe work and promote bottom-up contributions to research priorities. Furthermore, SEiSMiC helped pilot the formats for a future Stakeholder Involvement Platform (SIP).
SEiSMiC was less successful in influencing the policy debate at national and European level to any significant degree. This objective was probably too ambitious considering the instruments available and the project’s structure and management, with its strong focus on process rather than content. Limited efforts were made to influence research councils and think tanks at national or European level. There were mechanisms in place in the framework to extract and formulate policy messages. National networks were encouraged and instructed to draw conclusions relevant to policy and practice from discussions in the national networks as well as from creative dialogues and workshops at the SEiSMiC forums. However, these policy recommendations were never developed in a structured way. To compensate for this, an initiative was taken at the last core group meeting in April 2016 to form a group of individuals that shared an interest in influencing EU research and policy priorities on SEiSMiC issues in order to allow
stakeholders outside the established technologically oriented impact platforms to meet and discuss priorities.
Local stakeholders
For the stakeholders participating in SEiSMiC forums, there has been a great deal of added value. The SEiSMiC project enabled grassroots and social innovation initiatives to access a European level multi-stakeholder network and gain more visibility. Thanks to SEiSMiC, a wide spectrum of small-scale initiatives was highlighted and given a voice. The presence of a diversity of participants, including representatives from the research community, helped frame local experiences in a European context. At the forums, stakeholders could share ideas and identify good practices, learn from each other and be inspired, and become more aware of what was taking place elsewhere in Europe. This was without doubt a benefit for the participants. However, the long-term impacts are not easy to assess.
The SEiSMIC forums and Policy Watches succeeded in providing local stakeholder initiatives with direct access to EU policy as well as knowledge of funding opportunities and urban policy development on a small scale. However, more engagement from policymakers and authorities had been expected, both at national and European level.
The project’s underlying rationale of involving different types of organisations (e.g. private, public, grassroots, social enterprises etc.) and facilitating multi-disciplinary activities was greatly appreciated by the participants from the social innovation sector. The presence of representatives from academia at SEiSMiC events was perceived a value addition due to the fact that it helped grassroots and community-led initiatives to convey their messages and priorities to policymakers more effectively.
SEiSMiC is one of many current initiatives in social innovation and the added value of SEiSMiC will be difficult to evaluate. The strength of SEiSMiC, and at the same time its Achilles heel, was the small scale of the project and its reliance on face-to-face meetings, as well as the potential difficulties of channelling all the voices in unison to ensure a substantial contribution to a better understanding of social innovation at European level. Knowledge transfer from forums to EU structures was dependent upon the advocacy of a few engaged EC policy officers and members of the SEiSMiC Advisory Board.
Interconnecting the three levels
Several triggers were put into place to facilitate the interconnection between the national and European levels, as well as the policy, research and practice domains. The newsletters featured different national networks and included best practice, news on research and innovation as well as policy topics. The Policy Watches described urban policy and research-related initiatives at European level and national level, including local examples of good practices in social innovation.
Exchanging good practice
SEiSMiC was relatively successful in promoting the exchange of good practice at transnational level, for example through the transnational working groups and SEiSMiC forums. However, the transnational dimension of SEiSMiC could have been better exploited and developed by, inter alia, investing more time and resources into its implementation e.g. small-scale transnational meetings, which would have proved more effective than newsletters. As a structure limitation, SEiSMiC lacked the means to support transnational working groups. If sufficient resources had been available, mutual learning achievements would have been greater.

A plethora of printed and digital products has been published during the SEiSMiC project. These will be available in digital format at the SEiSMiC website until the end of 2018.
Digital products and infrastructures
The web-based digital products include a website with subpages for each national network, a sharing platform for transnational working groups, newsletters and LinkedIn groups. The social media strategy also includes using Twitter.
The SEiSMiC website, including the national subpages, is hosted by REC and has acted as the natural communication hub during the life cycle of the SEiSMiC project. The website was launched in 2014 and has been actively used. The website will be retained but not updated until December 2018.
The sharing platform was introduced in 2015 in order to raise the visibility of local social innovation initiatives and transnational working groups as well as to enable the latter to recruit new members and disseminate results. It was launched with 30 projects and by 2016 the total number of projects had risen to 54, with the largest number from the Czech Republic and Italy. Unfortunately, the sharing platform was not very successful. Information was initially posted on the platform but not regularly updated. The platform will not be actively sustained after SEiSMiC.
The LinkedIn groups that were established in support of the transnational groups generated very little activity. On the other hand, Twitter has been used extensively by SEiSMiC participants, with an all-time high of 100 tweets in conjunction with the Launching Event in Brussels in 2014, and all other major projects events have generated a significant number of tweets.
The “What’s shaking” newsletter has been issued 6 times. The national co-ordinators have rotated responsibility for producing material that presents social innovation initiatives and key issues in their countries and national networks. In August 2016, there were 920 subscribers to the newsletter. To some extent, the SEiSMiC community will be sustained in the context of JPI Urban Europe SIP and all subscribers to the SEiSMiC newsletter “What’s shaking” will be invited to subscribe to the JPI Urban Europe newsletter.
Printed products
The SEiSMiC printed reports include books, reports and toolkits described in more detailed below. In addition to the official SEiSMiC reports there are also material produced by the transnational working groups. With one exeption of the report from the Social Innovation Incubators these reports are not listed below. All the SEiSMiC reports described below will be available at the SEiSMiC website until December 2018.
SEiSMiC: Enabling social innovation in European cities
The publication details the outcomes of the SEiSMiC project and describes how it has contributed to a deeper understanding of the social dimension of urban development,
which in turn has influenced future research priorities. The book was compiled with the aim of creating an appealing narrative about the essence of SEiSMiC and to showcase some of the results from SEiSMiC in an attractive book. It includes key messages from SEiSMiC forums, descriptions of SEiSMiC contributions on social innovation related to urban challenges and descriptions of the national networks.
The SEiSMiC practice-based guide to establishing national stakeholder networks for urban challenges
The SEiSMiC practice-based guide to establishing national stakeholder networks for urban challenges was published in time for the final SEiSMiC event in Brussels in October 2016. It describes the various strategies that were applied in the ten SEiSMiC countries to establish a long-term network with a high level of commitment from a broad variety of stakeholders over time. Its content is based on the results of interviews with the ten Na-net co-ordinators conducted in June 2016. The handbook was distributed to the participants at the final meeting and will also be distributed to the members of the JPI Urban Europe Governing Board and Funding Agencies Working Group.
SEiSMiC Toolbox (as yet unpublished)
SEiSMiC focused strongly on processes, piloting formats for a future stakeholder platform, “curating” dialogue processes in a particular style, co-creation etc. The SEiSMiC Tool box is a compilation of workshop formats that have been tested and evaluated during SEiSMiC meetings and events. The tools and methods described include site visits and walkshops, creative dialogues, case studies, etc.
SEiSMiC Scoping paper and Policy Watch
Eurocities has published a total of 4 Policy Watch reports during SEiSMiC. The reports were issued with the aim of providing updates on policy initiatives at both EU level and national levels, and to highlight local examples of social innovation. The reports fulfilled a need since they combined information on EC policy with information about local examples of social innovation. This was one of the instruments implemented to bridge the gap between the local and national levels and the European level.
Eurocities will not be continuing with the Policy Watches once SEiSMiC has ended.
SEiSMiC Gender Action Plan and Toolkit
SEiSMiC published the SEiSMiC Gender Action Plan and Toolkit to promote a gender-balanced approach in the field of social innovation. The document describes the current state of the gender-equality movement in Europe, provides examples of how social innovation furthers gender equality and recommends best practice in the field. It argues that gender equality is as important now as ever, and should be a priority for social innovation in cities. Its opening section provides recent facts and figures on how gender issues permeate urban life, from local politics and civic participation, to employment and care, digital start-up ecosystems, health, urban safety and local transport.
Fact sheets – Takeaways
SEiSMiC has published four thematic fact sheets. The first fact sheet summarises the project’s aims and objectives and how it seeks to achieve them. The next three facts sheets report key messages from the three SEiSMiC forums on the themes of New Urban Governance, New Urban Space and New Urban Economies.
Street Smarts Educational Material
The teaching materials developed by the SEiSMiC project and presented in this guide are therefore designed to help secondary-school teachers present Europe’s main urban challenges and engage their students in the quest for solutions. The materials are ideal for use with students between the ages of 16 and 18 and address sustainable food supply; energy efficiency; green transport; the ageing society; climate change; urban space; and social exclusion.
The Social Innovation Toolkit
The Social Innovation Toolkit is a tool developed by members of the Belgian national network. It can be used for capacity building and enabling awareness of social innovation and what is already in place in terms of social innovation.

Potential Impact:
List of Websites:
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