Demoday #24: Knowledge session ‘Social Innovation’

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Creating social value for all is one of Amsterdam Smart City's core values. That's why we invited Dave van Loon and Marieke Doorninck from our partner Kennisland to lead a knowledge session on social innovation. In their words, social innovation can help us approach processes differently, encouraging people to think in new ways.

What is Social Innovation?

“Those who are closest to the issue know the most about it,” said Marieke. Therefore, Kennisland designs solutions for complex societal issues together with those involved. According to Kennisland, social innovation is about creating better outcomes for people, contributing to an inclusive and sustainable society. It involves the development and implementation of new strategies, concepts, ideas, and organizations that provide solutions for major societal challenges. Collaboration is essential in this process; it is not about individual actions but about collective efforts within a specific context. “Social innovation is not so much about finding the best solution,” emphasized Dave, “but about the process where the right people come together and collectively decide what the best solution is.” This also implies a shift in power: giving the lead role to others instead of those who have always had it.

Key Principles of Social Innovation Include:

  • Creating social value (not just economic)
  • Considering different perspectives and values
  • Making policies and solutions through action
  • Mobilizing involved citizens to build a socially sustainable future

Social innovation provides answers to complex social problems that cannot be solved by the government and business sector alone. The concept refers to new strategies, concepts, ideas, and organizations that provide solutions for major societal challenges. Additionally, it’s about creating a positive cycle of learning and improvement, involving all relevant actors in the issue.

Social Innovation In Practice

How does social innovation work in practice? Dave provided a successful example from Kennisland: ‘Amsterdam zoekt Schoolmakers' (Amsterdam is looking for Schoolmakers). This was a crowdsourcing campaign and incubator for new school initiatives. In this project, every Amsterdammer had the opportunity to submit a plan for a new school to accommodate the expected growth in student numbers. The challenge eventually resulted in over 124 initiatives for new schools and served as the starting point for a broader dialogue about education in the city. “This is a good example of social innovation because radical innovators and system representatives could learn from each other,” said Dave. A very interesting project that stimulates bottom-up innovation and shows what is possible.

During the session, other successful examples of social innovation were shared by the audience. One of these examples was the wellbeing dashboard, developed by students from the Hogeschool van Amsterdam in collaboration with residents of the ‘G-buurt’ in Amsterdam Zuidoost. This dashboard monitors the residents' wellbeing and actively involves them in co-creation sessions.

Social Innovation and Amsterdam Smart City

Collaboration is essential in addressing complex issues within the Amsterdam Smart City network. A good example of this is grid congestion. The problem is so complex that collaboration between grid operators, governments, energy suppliers, businesses, and citizens is necessary.

According to Marieke, it’s essential for people to truly feel the urgency of the problems. This sense of necessity motivates them to embrace social innovation and come to solutions together. She concluded the session by emphasizing that the great challenges of our time can only be addressed through collective efforts.

Do you want to learn more about social innovation or get in contact with Kennisland? Leave a comment below and we’ll connect you with Dave and Marieke!