Network of Excellence in Internet Science

Digital Social Innovation workshop - 3 Feb 2014 - European Commission

On Monday 3 February, the European Commission hosted a full day policy workshop to discuss the Digital Social Innovation (DSI) project. The project aims to connect the many European initiatives in social innovation on the Internet or using digital means to collaborate. A lively debate during the day came to a close with some concrete policy recommendations and a discussion on next steps. The collaborative online element of the project clearly links in with JRA6 on “Virtual Communities” of EINS.

The definition of DSI is left intentionally broad and flexible by the project conveners, to allow for experimentation and developments. The host introduced the topic as “a type of social and collaborative innovation in which innovators, users and communities collaborate using digital technologies to co-create knowledge and solutions for a wide range of social needs and at a scale that was unimaginable before the rise of Internet-enabled platforms.

Many of the discussions between entrepreneurs, academics and policy makers on the day focussed on how to enable the many local, national and international DSI initiatives in Europe to collaborate. Some participants called for a needs analysis of the technical, organisational and financial means. The DSI project can therefore draw on the experiences mapped in deliverable 6.1 titled “Overview of user needs analysis, plus draft catalogue of design responses to needs analysis.”

Several participants met their collaborators on projects for the first time during the workshop, which shows that physical contact is no longer necessary for innovation to happen. The shift in innovation patterns from “open innovation” to more dynamic ecosystems of collaboration over the Internet was not only discussed at length, but also apparent among the participants during the workshop. However, the day also demonstrated that physical presence of creative persons from many different disciplines working towards similar goals in one room does also lead to a fruitful discussion and take ideas forward.

Among many outcomes, participants called for the European Commission to become an enabler of DSI by funding development labs, reducing the administrative burdens on EU funded projects and allow for more decentralization, while keeping a steering role. The Commission representatives agreed and added that it should enable projects to establish quickly, allow them to fail, draw lessons and scale up the projects that do work. Current living society should be seen as the lab for DSI, and projects should not be over-evaluated by the European bureaucracy. The sector is currently at an evolutionary stage that maybe analysed, but conclusions should only be drawn carefully.

The Commission further proposed platforms such as a social network for DSI projects and practitioners, where information and lessons can be shared among stakeholders. This would allow for governments at all levels, entrepreneurs and funders to find each other on a European level. To what extent such initiatives come to fruition may be researched in future work of JRA6.

(Livesketches by Natalia Talkowska,


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