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Supporting the scale and growth of Digital Social Innovation in Europe through coordination of Europe’s DSI and CAPS Networks

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - DSISCALE (Supporting the scale and growth of Digital Social Innovation in Europe through coordination of Europe’s DSI and CAPS Networks)

Reporting period: 2018-01-01 to 2019-06-30

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. We call this phenomenon digital social innovation (DSI).

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.

Active from January 2018 to June 2019, the latest phase of the DSI4EU project (Digital Social Innovation for Europe) supported the growth and scale of DSI (or “tech for good”) in Europe, and helped bring it into the mainstream of civil society, the public sector and governance. The project was carried out by a consortium of seven partner organisations: Nesta (UK), Waag (Netherlands), betterplace lab (Germany), Fab Lab Barcelona (Spain), WeMake (Italy), Barcelona Activa (Spain) and the ePaństwo Foundation (Poland).

Over the 18 months of the project, DSI4EU:

Continued 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;

Coordinated six DSI clusters, each focusing on a different social area, which organised series of events, learning and networking opportunities;

Built new connections in Europe’s DSI community, acting as a source of help and support for all those interested in DSI;

Engaged with policymakers and key influencers at the European, national and city levels to shape the future of DSI;

Developed an experimental index to understand more about how policymakers are supporting DSI across Europe;

Carried out exciting research into how the future of DSI might look like.
DSI4EU consisted of four main work packages, alongside the project management work package.

Work Package 1 focused on two broad areas: policy and research on the one hand, and the development, management and curation of digitalsocial.eu on the other. The European Digital Social Innovation Index was developed to better understand the systemic and macro-level conditions which support the creation, growth and sustainability of DSI initiatives, and to analyse geographically how different parts of the European Union are positioned to support DSI initiatives. Through this work package, we also engaged policy makers at European, national and local levels to advocate for the importance of DSI and developed policy recommendations for the support of DSI at EU level. We carried out sustained communications work, promoting both the project and the DSI and CAPS field through social media, events, blogs, case studies and the DSI4EU newsletter, which went out to 2,700 subscribers monthly. On top of this, we organised two major DSI4EU events, the policy workshop “The road ahead for digital social innovation: How can the EU support digital technologies to tackle our biggest challenges?” in Brussels in April 2019 and the final event “New urban visions: Bringing digital social innovation into City Hall’ in Warsaw in June 2019, as well as the “Blockchain for Social Good Academy” in Turin in January 2019.

We worked to improve the digitalsocial.eu website, increasing engagement, and building the database of organisations and projects and the library of case studies. We built a repository of resources related to DSI and continued throughout the project to create exciting new content including opinion pieces, news and interviews.

Work Package 2 has sought to scale and grow DSI initiatives by establishing ‘DSI clusters’. DSI clusters are a set of thematic clusters each focused on DSI activities related to a specific societal challenges, such as migration, democracy or energy use. Each cluster leader carried out work researching the landscape, opportunities and challenges for DSI in their specific social area, including creating thematic analyses and guides for each social area, writing regular blogs and case studies, and identifying and curating resources for practitioners and other stakeholders. We ran a series of over 60 peer learning events focusing on exchanging knowledge and skills between peers (policy makers, funders and practitioners) working on and interested in DSI and its applications in specific social areas. Partners engaged different levels of government to advocate for DSI and help decision-makers understand how DSI can help them achieve their priorities, and what they can do to support the growth of DSI.

Work Package 3 has sought to develop an in depth understanding of the ‘future of DSI’ and to provide the necessary tools for social organisations, funders and policymakers to create more innovation capacity, develop a better understanding of how to shape the future and how to support emerging innovations on the digital social landscape. The first strand of this work focused on developing a series of trend analyses and trend guides exploring important technological and social trends with great: the open movement, digital wellbeing and ethical platforms and providing step provide step by step instructions for how organisations can embed these DSI approaches in their work. The second strand of our futures work focused on developing a series of positive future scenarios for how DSI might look like in ten years time. We published “Our Tech, Our Future” a collection of ten scenarios for the future of DSI, to inspire people to think about the future and the possibilities of digital technologies, and that the stories will play a part in helping us achieve technology’s potential as a tool for empowerment, education, democracy, sustainability, equality and social justice. We also created the “People’s Press”, a fictional community magazine from the year 2030 that contains visions of what our societies and communities might look like in a decade, and explores what role responsible, ethical and socially beneficial digital technologies might play within them.
The impact of the project has been widespread and has had positive effects for a range of DSI stakeholders: innovators, citizens, researchers and policymakers have all benefited from the project. These impacts are explored above and throughout the final Technical Report.

We are continuing to maintain the digitalsocail.eu platform for the foreseeable future and well as the DSISCALE twitter account. We are also continuing to promote our research and work via social media and through the help of our partners at upcoming events.