Europe in My Region

I began hearing talks on ‘Social Innovation’ in 2012 for professional reasons.

This is a repost of 7 cose che ho imparato sulla Social Innovation (in Italia), originally published on Medium by Fabiana Zeppieri (@Fabiazep, on Medium) and submitted to the Europe in My Region 2016 blogging competition.

Nowadays, many of us in Italy know about Airbnb. We definitely have a friend who used Blablacar and almost all of us expressed a view about ‘ordinary taxis vs. Uber’.

I read about a Call for proposals as to Social Innovation being co-funded with EU resources in 2012 (in Italy); this one was published by the Italian Research Ministry and was focused on submitting projects for ‘developing technologically innovative ideas to solve specific issues in the relevant urban clusters in the short-medium term‘.

This definition was not enough for me. I didn’t understand it and I wasn’t able to provide a Social Innovation example. That’s why I started googling to read about and look into what other people did. What I learnt is stated below:

1 — ’Social Innovation is the ability to meet old requirements in a new way’. This was the first definition that satisfied or maybe charmed me. Immediately after that, I learnt that Social Innovation had a hashtag #Socinn and that it was already gaining huge success in Northern Europe.

2 — Social Innovation doesn’t just concern youth. ‘It’s My Fault’ (‘Mia Colpa’) was the Call co-funded by the Research and Competitiveness Operational Programme that sparked my interest. It was aimed at under-30’s. This is why I misinterpreted everything. It’s true: young people find it easier to imagine a world being organised through technology and apps drawing on big data, as well as experiences lived through mobile devices. Nevertheless, this didn’t mean that ‘less young’ people couldn’t contrive any ideas to make life simpler.

3- ‘Social Innovation’ deals with measurable and useful things that are also used by me and generate profits. I grasped this as I took part in an event (2014) where the projects under the Call I described above were presented.

For curious people: here’s a Storify account of that day1_DB3od4iYG5A4bBhj-1jQ2Q[1]

“At Innovation and Knowledge Hall in Naples (“Palazzo dell’Innovazione e della Conoscenza”) a day fully dedicated to the […] projects’ future”

– #Socialinnovationday14

4 —’Social Innovation’ concerns the way I travel, which means of transportation I use and how I can avoid damaging the environment. Borrowing a bike through an app on your smartphone to reach your office after having got off the underground. That’s Social Innovation. Moreover, if you can’t (or you don’t want to) use a bike and public transportation but you think you can do something to lower CO2 emissions, you can share a trip or a car. That’s Social Innovation, too. Awarding a prize (gaming) to people who use low environmental impact means of transportation. This is #Socinn.

5 — ’Social Innovation’ is culture and tourism. It answers these questions (or meets these needs): how can my smartphone help me when travelling?

Alternatively, I can’t travel but I can simulate my visit to an archaeology site such as Pompei thanks to 3D-technology. Making art and territory inclusive. This is Social Innovation.

In addition, which information do I want to get before visiting a museum and which while I’m visiting it? How I can defend and foster tradition?

Can I ‘modernise’ folk feasts and festivals typical for Italian villages by creating a waste reduction/recycling system?

6 —  ‘Social Innovation’ exists when technology solves an issue connected to my skills, health and problems that come up as age advances.

Nao (you see it in the picture) is a Smart Robot prototype supplementing and monitoring autistic children’s therapy. There are also apps for distance follow-up of elderly people, heartbeats, your posture, etc.

The Lamarck Award (Premio Lamarck)
The Lamarck Award (Premio Lamarck)

7 — ’Social Innovation’ uses data, not just to monitor what I do and when I do it, but also to calculate how much solar, wind, water, hay and orange peel energy I need.

Trying new low environmental impact materials, reusing discarded items or measuring wave motion to produce energy from it. That’s Social Innovation.

Whatever has become of these projects today?

When searching online as usual, I noticed that many such websites no longer exist. By googling …

I read that that Ministry itself keeps on talking about Social Innovation.

While the ‘Naples Bike Sharing’ project is still struggling against that same Ministry. It risks being aborted because of bureaucratic quibbles. (‘La Repubblica’, 12 May 2016)

The next piece of news I’d like to read deals with an old building in the ‘Italian Welsh Region’ that got one more chance thanks to the European Regional Development Fund and created 100 jobs (few but honest), as well as a new tourist attraction centre. Interest was considerable and someone came from Brussels to study it.

I know that it’s possible.

P.S.: You’ll find here a full list of the Social Innovation Projects being funded by the ERDF through the ‘Research and Competitiveness’ OP.

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