Social Innovation Exchange – what methodologies should URBACT be using to fast track implementation of new ideas

URBACT

By URBACT, on September 30th, 2009

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The social innovation exchange summer school is an invitation only event for about 125 people.  The report is on the sixwiki  which can be seen at http://wiki.socialinnovationexchange.org/  This wiki was created for recording purposes during the meeting  and then added to afterwards.  This year the SIX summer school was held in Lisbon at the Gulbenkian Institute.  They aim to avoid both ‘academic seminar style, or the more glitzy social entrepreneurship events – Instead the tone we’re looking for is serious reflection amongst a group who really want to learn and improve, and can be honest about failures and difficulties as well as triumphs’.  .  

Some of the star speakers included Won-Soon Park from the Hope Institute in South Korea who founded a movement to challenge corruption in government at all levels and now runs a string of large social enterprises working on social inclusion, environmental justice and economic development. He reminded me how much we need strong civil society organisations to keep our politicians and cities on their toes.   Diogo Vasconcelos from the ideas team at Cisco (pioneering connected cities etc) was a minister in Barosso’s Portuguese cabinet and has succeeded in selling the idea of social innovation to the EU.  We also had a video from Manuel Castells who talked about the networked society and the recession.  And a video link with Susan Crawford from White House.  Susan is a member of Obama’s  economic council and talked about the new Office of Social Innovation in the White House – though predictably the video conference link broke down and we had one of those waving moments.  This was finally fixed by calling her on a landline. 

One new thing for me was that before the conference use of twitter – via a  group of twits at the back constantly tweeting links as speakers referred to interesting examples.  These were combined at http://hashtags.org/tag/sixlisbon  There was also a steady stream of ‘traditional blogging’ which added reflections on what had happened throughout the conference see  http://www.socialinnovationexchange.org/node/4035

My big question for URBACT practitioners is what methodologies should we be using at local level to ensure that urban innovations in policy are embedded and mainstreamed?  Should we be looking to national level institutions to support local government in this process like the UK’s Innovation and Development Agency? http://www.idea.gov.uk/ or focus on creating innovation units inside city administrations?  And most of all what can we learn from this emerging social innovation movement which builds connections between household economies, the government, third sector and the private sector?

Peter Ramsden

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