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EMUDE Résumé de rapport

Project ID: 505645
Financé au titre de: FP6-NMP
Pays: Italy

Final Report Summary - EMUDE (Emerging Users Demands for Sustainable Solutions)

The EMUDE programme background had been the observation of a phenomenon of social innovation: the emergence in Europe of groups of active, enterprising people inventing and putting into practice original ways of dealing with everyday problems (from childcare and care of the elderly to getting hold of natural food, from looking after green spaces to alternative means of transport, from building new solidarity networks to the creation of new forms of housing and shared facilities and services).

The main objective of the project was to encourage a virtuous circle between social and technological innovation, or more specifically, between society's capacity to emit positive signals (promising cases), its capacity to recognise, reinforce and effectively communicate them, and then its ability to pick up these signals and act on them, putting them to good use.

The field study carried out by EMUDE has verified the validity of the original hypotheses and has shed light on the characteristics of these promising cases in the framework of contemporary society, the enormous transformations that is going through, and scenarios that outline ways in which it may evolve in future.

Work focused on the situation in Europe in general, but also looked at the specificities of Eastern European countries.

The main results that were obtained are the following:

- a collection of promising cases of creative communities;
- discussion of these creative communities as positive examples of diffused creativity, in the frameworks of the knowledge based society and in the perspective of the transition towards sustainability;
- definition of the concept of diffused social enterprise (DSE), as the evolution of creative communities in more mature and lasting forms of social organisation, and discussion of its implication in the present, emerging ideas on welfare and local development;
- proposal of a scenario (the scenario of creative communities and the diffused social enterprise) and of the enabling solutions, platforms and frameworks that could enhance it;
- a policy agenda articulated around three main questions: how do creative communities and DSE support the exiting European policy agenda? What kind of policy agenda was suitable to support creative communities and the DSE? What were the creative communities and DSE implications for the industrial research funding?

The direct observation of this emerging reality was carried out by building a network of observatories (antennas) located in eight European design schools. In this way, more than hundred cases were gathered, from which 56 particularly significant ones were selected. This collection of promising cases constituted the basis of the following stages in the programme and has been the first result of this phase of work. Also, a network of schools was built to undertake field research.

The EMUDE programme developed a series of deeper observations on creative communities, highlighting their special characteristics and implications on different grounds. Particular focus was put on the social and environmental value of these cases and the way they were taking shape as the initial stage in a new generation social enterprise. A new kind of enterprise that, in its maturity, was named: the diffused social enterprise (DSE).

The introduction of the concept of the DSE enables us to confront important issues in contemporary society in a new way. When read in the perspective of DSE, the promising cases considered by EMUDE appeared as forerunners of a new, promising idea of well-being, social justice and citizenship. In particular, they brought an interesting contribution to two important issues currently under discussion: welfare (after the crisis in the welfare state), and new models of local development.

Though focusing on the European situation, the EMUDE programme also sought to find out whether, and roughly to what extent, the phenomenon of creative community could also be seen outside Europe, and whether there could be a fruitful exchange of experiences between European and non-European countries.

Creative communities and the DSE they give rise to, could bring a notable contribution to welfare issues. In face of the growing demand for welfare and the crisis in ideas about this field, creative communities pointed to a possibility of a new path. They put forward a different idea of welfare, active welfare where people directly involved take direct part in achieving the results they want and in so doing, with reference to the characteristics of diffuse social enterprise, they 'produce sociality'. However, since those directly involved become an active part in planning the service and then putting it into operation, they are also able to obtain the desired results in the way that is most economical and closest to their ever more changing and variegated needs.

The complex nature of creative communities and diffuse social enterprise opened the way to other promising lines of development. One of the most significant lied in considering them as forerunners of sustainable production models.

The consolidation and dissemination of creative communities and diffused social enterprise, was put forward as an original way of attempting to experiment intrinsically more sustainable ways of living and producing from the bottom. To be more precise: ways of living and producing that are able to merge social justice, environmental quality and a new sense of active citizenship, in the framework of a new idea of welfare and sustainable local development.

At the same time, observation of these points out that, to be successful and bring about the great changes in orientation required, this bottom-up strategy also requires suitable top-down intervention: the cases realised by creative communities are in fact as fragile and difficult to repeat as they are promising.

A specific characteristic of the EMUDE programme is that it combined a system for gathering original information on the dynamics of social innovation, with activities that elaborate and communicate the data collected.

Another original aspect of the EMUDE programme came from the decision to use teams of research students and undergraduates from design schools as antennas.

The EMUDE project was articulated in two periods. The first period was devoted to consolidate the initial hypotheses and to collect the information thanks to the network of antennas, while the second period was devoted to access the selected cases, to bring to light their most promising aspects, to clarify the demand for products, services and solutions they give rise to and to elaborate these findings both in stronger concepts and in highly communicative initiatives.

The first contribution of the project was a better understanding of how creative communities actually work and what they require to work better and to become more easily replicable and / or up-gradable.

The second contribution of the project was a specific scenario: the scenario of creative communities and the diffused social enterprise and its articulation in a series of proposals (solution ideas) and experiences (on the part of different hypothetical users). This scenario offered an overview of what everyday life could be like in a society where the idea and practice of the DSE was widespread and where the proposed activities were supported by appropriate enabling solutions. In other words, solutions conceived integrating the technology for which there was found to be (an explicit or implicit) demand.

The third contribution was notion of enabling platforms: systems of technologies, infrastructures, legal frameworks and modes of governance and policy making.

The insights from the EMUDE research were strongly indicating that a number of benefits could be expected from the emergence of the DFE. This was particularly true for four policy arenas that form a core part of the European Community policy objectives: innovation capability in knowledge based economy: decoupling of economic growth and environmental impact; social cohesion and sustainable welfare; new modes of governance.

The reflections developed by EMUDE had an immediate first interlocutor in policy makers, in welfare and social service institutions, in non-profit associations operating in this area, in innovative companies who aimed to base their long strategies on evolving demand patterns and obviously in creative communities themselves and in whoever was prepared to follow their example.

The demands brought to light by the promising cases and the prospects of active welfare and new forms of local development they indicate suggested that these issues may rapidly become very important for private enterprise and, in general, for all economic operators interested in developing products and services for new markets.

The EMUDE vision of a new social fabric made of diffused social enterprises as enablers of sustainable production and consumption and the vision of competitive highly agile knowledge based manufacturing were well in line with each other and even mutually reinforcing.

The scenarios drawn by EMUDE researchers on micro and macro scale clearly indicated that the possibility to learn from innovative, creative and active consumers and users could become a competitive advantage for European manufacturing industry.

Emude results can be articulated in six categories:
-Concepts: The concepts we are referring to here are the ones that emerged from the EMUDE field research, assessment and discussion. They were creative communities and diffused social enterprises, enabling solutions and enabling platforms. Thanks to them it was possible to interpret an emerging social phenomenon, and develop a strategy to promote social innovation from a bottom-up perspective.
- Tools and methodology: For what regards the dedicated tools, here we refer to: the training guide (it is composed by a set of definitions, procedures and templates providing the theoretical and practical information that are needed to successfully search, understand and describe the cases) and the promising case repository (whose architecture is strictly related to the case-formats and step-by-step procedures proposed by the training guide). Both these tools are intended to be used to support didactic activities and research activities in carrying out EMUDE-like activities.
- Collection of cases: The collection of European good practices that the EMUDE field research realised was a first practical EMUDE result that could be considered as a positive step to promote social innovation from a bottom-up perspective.
- Scenarios: One of the main EMUDE result was a specific (micro)scenario: the scenario of the diffused social enterprise and its articulation in a series of proposals and experiences. This scenario offered an overview of what everyday life could be like in a society where creative communities were widespread, and where many of them evolved in the diffused social enterprises (DSE).
- Enabling platforms: Another relevant EMUDE result was notion of enabling platforms: systems of technologies, infrastructures, legal frameworks and modes of governance and policy making the role of which was to create a favourable environment for creative communities, to facilitate their evolution into diffused social enterprises and to direct them towards more sustainable forms of organization.
- Networks of antennas: A side effect of the EMUDE activities was a network of observatories (antennas) located in eight European design schools. Built to undertake the EMUDE specific field research, it demonstrated its capacity to develop a life of its own.

Given the nature of the EMUDE results (concepts, tools and methodology, collection of cases, scenarios, enabling platforms, network of antennas), their practical application could be considered in two different domains:
-the orientation of policy making and business activities;
- the support to creative communities and to the diffused social enterprise.

Creative communities and the diffuse social enterprise DSE alone are not a panacea. However, as the EMUDE results indicated, if the weak signals were taken up, strengthened, connected and spread, their benefits could be greatly enhanced. Above that, if they were actively complemented by coherent targeted policy measures (defined as enabling frameworks and platforms), they could have the possibility to become strong enablers of wider socio-technical transition towards a sustainable society.

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