Social Innovation Meetup: “Exploring Labs for Social Change” – presentation notes

130425_Social Innovation MeetupOn April 25, Social Innovation Meetup #4, organized by Hivos and Kennisland, was held in Amsterdam. Theme: “Exploring Labs for Social Change”.  Social innovation labs are very popular as instruments for “changing the system”. However, what actually happens in these labs? How do they help accomplish social change? What’s in “the black box”?

Keynote speakers sharing innovation stories from Kenya, Finland, and Canada were Daudi Were of Ushahidi, Marco Steinberg of the Helsinki Design Lab and Vanessa Timmer of One Earth. In the two days prior to the meetup, representatives of living labs (hubs, experimental learning spaces, etc.) from all over the world gathered in “Lab2“.  Together, these people in the vanguard explored new examples and solutions for system change, some of which were reported at the meetup.  There was also supposed to be a panel discussion to see how their lessons learnt might apply to the Dutch context, but unfortunately that part was cancelled.
The presentations were brief and intense, relaying a flurry of interesting ideas and references. Like at the “Designing Social Cities of Tomorrow” workshop last year, I took presentation notes. They are rough, and only minimally edited, although I have added some links and excerpts from the sites linked to. Together, I think these notes give a nice overview of the many dimensions experienced at the international front lines of real social innovation.
Introduction 
A brief introductory speech was given by Remco Berkhout of Hivos.  There are many tough global problems, like climate change, for which there are no clearcut solutions. Hivos believes that citizen action is key to addressing these problems. People from all over the world are involved in such processes of social innovation. There are many interpretations of what is social innnovation: any idea that makes the world better, creativity of communities to make things better, popukar participation, with resources going to the communities, and so on. The silos need to go. Cities in the south can be great sources of inspiration. Given the pressing problems, labs there are often much more advanced than here in the West!
Daude Were (Ushahidi, Kenya)
In 2007, all hell broke loose after the Kenyan elections, resulting in many riots and murders. Many stories were un(der)reported. We needed to find stories of what was happening, curate them, map them, and archive them. Ushahidi was born, very quickly, in a couple of days. Ushahidi means “witness” or “testimony”. It really is a platform + community + movement.  The basic idea: from people in need to people who help. Does it work? Yes, it’s use has spread way beyond Kenya,  e.g. during the Haiti earthquake  and the Japanese tsunami the platform was used as an emergency platform. By now, it has got many other uses, including mapping harassments, oil spills, social revolutions (Arab Spring, Occupy), and monitoring elections (Tanzania and Zambia), mapping the different reasons why people voted in the Canadian elections, and so on. It is changing the way info flows in the world. How? We meet you where you are (in creating a great diversity of interfaces for sending to and receiving info from the platform). Both high-end applications (for decision makers) and low-end applications (to reach the masses) are important. In an emergency, you can have it set  up in only a few minutes (via crowdmap.com). It’s “Made in Africa”: “if it works here, it will work anywhere in the world :-)”.
We created iHub. Nairobi’s Innovation Hub for the technology community is an open space for the technologists, investors, tech companies and hackers in the area. This space is a tech community facility with a focus on young entrepreneurs, web and mobile phone programmers, designers and researchers.  It is a place to physically meet, partner up, share ideas, get exposure and support. We have over 9,000 members. It’s much more than just another cybercafe: over 40 companies have come out of it in the past few years.  We also have a number of initiatives designed to build an ecosystem around the Kenyan tech entrepreneur: Hub Research, iHub Consulting, iHub Supercomputing Cluster, and the iHub User Experience (UX) Lab. iHubs are started all over the country.

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eCampaigning Forum 2008

I have just received confirmation that I can participate in eCampaigning Forum 2008, to be held at St. Anne’s College, Oxford, on April 10-11. Last year, I attended their social dinner while visiting a friend, and was struck by the nice mix of expertise and friendliness of the participants. I am really excited about being part of that crowd myself this year!

What it is?

“The 2008 eCampaigning Forum brings together e-campaigning practitioners, managers, freelancers, entrepreneurs and bloggers to share the essential and emerging trends and practices in campaigning (advocacy) using interactive media. The experts are the participants and this event ensures those who attend get to spend most of their time engaging with their peers on topics that concern them most.”

This year, the crowd is even larger, with some very interesting people, from organizations including Greenpeace, Amnesty International, Oxfam, Friends of the Earth, Medicins Sans Frontiers, the BBC, and many, many others. What is especially interesting is that these people are among the world’s top experts on using interactive media to get people moving. We are drowning in information, but using the Internet to make people do things is the holy grail many of us are after. I am looking forward to joining the other Internet knights at the Round Table :-)

Design for development

Richard Heeks and Bill McIver sent useful references in response to my post on the Another Perspective on Design-symposium.


[Richard Heeks]

Just to follow Aldo’s original point, the whole area of “design for development” seems to be a growing one. Examples are the work of The Cardiff Group: http://www.thecardiffgroup.org.uk/ (which helps organise the Development Studies Association’s Design and Development group: http://www.devstud.org.uk/studygroups/design.htm), and Design for Development: http://www.designfordevelopment.org/. Up-and-coming are the outputs from the BGDD project – http://www.bgdd.org/Wiki.jsp – which is approaching the issue from a computing/interface design-for-development perspective.There are also a lot of organisations working more to help multinationals understand and design for emerging markets, e.g. CKS in Bangalore – http://www.cks.in/They, in turn, have been involved in one of the main design-and-development functions, the Doors of Perception events: http://www.doorsofperception.com/

Prof. Richard Heeks
Development Informatics Group
IDPM, SED, University of Manchester
Web: http://www.manchester.ac.uk/idpm/dig

[Bill McIver]

See also:Low Technologies, High Aims

By ANDREW C. REVKIN

Published: September 11, 2007

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/11/science/11mit.html?scp=5&sq=olin+college&st=nyt

Matriculation
Re-engineering Engineering

By JOHN SCHWARTZ

Published: September 30, 2007

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/30/magazine/30OLIN-t.html?scp=1&sq=olin+college&st=nyt

Outside the Box
By LISA GUERNSEY
Published: November 4, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/04/education/edlife/nicheintro.html?scp=2&sq=olin+college&st=nyt

The inaugural International Development Design Summit (IDDS) at MIT on 16 July – 10 August 2007
http://www.iddsummit.org/

Bill McIver,
Research Officer
People-Centred Technologies
Institute for Information Technology
National Research Council Canada

http://iit-iti.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/personnel/mciver_william_e.html

Another Perspective on Design – Symposium

Yesterday, an interesting symposium was organised in Breda by COLIN (Creative Organisations Linked in Networks) , named “Another Perspective on Design“. Here are some notes I took during the presentations. They are not comprehensive, but should capture some of the highlights.


Speaker: Mary-Ann Schreurs, chairwoman of the working group Design of the Eindhoven city council

  • Design has enormous economic potential
    • One reason DAF trucks has become so succcessful is because of their truck cabins having been optimally designed for their human users.
  • Designers bring together ideas from all disciplines, combine them into a form. Design is leading.
  • Governments need to create the necessary conditions for design to have its effect.
    • For example, never enough workspaces for starting entrepreneurs!
  • Innovation networks necessary
    • Alone it cannot be done, collaboration between many stakeholders is essential. Only organize those who are really willing.
    • Companies are proud of their products because they mean something to people
      • No longer make products just to own, but products that add meaning to people’s lives.
      • For example, children in hospital get badge, when moving around the kids see their favorite themes. projected on the walls, e.g. space travel. Result: faster recovery time.

    “Designer is a carrier of societal change”

  • A design meeting was organized for city politicians: what’s in design for them? Some examples:
    • Participation is the magic word. One approach that has been shown to work in Eindhoven is the “virtual neighbourhood”.
    • Software for 3D design. Use it to show the effects of construction choices, costs automatically calculated. Design of houses much more tailored to needs of citizens, they co-own the design.
    • Designers living with homeless found out that they do not use the designed shelters if their dogs are not allowed entry, as these to them are “their family”.
    • The city council now better understands the power of design for the city. A range of aspects needs to be taken into account:
      • Esthetics
      • Economics
      • Societal
      • “Freedom”
        • Large companies often constrain the creative process too much. Technology should not lead but serve us. Make sure to liberate creative souls to work in the way they want/need.
  • Eindhoven is going to change from a city that creates technology to a city where you experience it.

Speaker: Conny Bakker, director of consultancy company Info-Eco, co-author of ‘Trespassers, inspirations for eco-efficient design’ and author of ‘Sustainable Technological Development’.

  • Info-Eco: helps designers and entrepreneurs choose the most appropriate eco-design strategies for their products and services.
  • For example: “peak oil”, oil shortage very soon becoming major problem
  • Design can help to achieve hyperefficiency
    • e.g. Volkswagen has prototype car using 1 liter of gas per 100 km. Will be on the market in 2010
    • Zero emission house using an advanced pipe system.
    • Airquarium: inflatable building, can be transported easily, using air as construction material
    • XO laptop (One Laptop Per Child). Many efficiency features, needs only 2 W! Rwanda and Uruguay have already bought it, among other nations, positive experiences reported from the field.
    • Zooop electrical car can reach 180 km/h, what can we learn for mass car design?
    • Nokia Eco Sensor Cell Phone: is charged by body movements of user

Speaker: Thera van Osch, economist and chairwoman of the Association for the Care Economy

  • From knowledge economy to experience economy, in which empathy is important
  • Does the economy determine design, or can design change the economy?
  • Increasing monetization of everything, including design! Not good, inhibiting real innovation!
  • We need to develop a paradigm of the caring human being
  • Achieve balance between market economy and care economy
  • Can sustainable design contribute to the economy in economical , social, and ecological sense?

Speaker: Alex van Dierendonck, O2 Nederland

  • User interface design & sustainability: involve the user
  • O2: growing network of designers together involved in developing innovative sustainable solutions. O2 Netherlands, the Dutch branch, has been founded in 1993.
  • Examples of innovative solutions
  • Focus on products doesn’t show the complex processes needed to get there!
  • Together doing design sessions is an interesting added value of such a design network.

Speakers: Stella van Himbergen, programme manager DDiD and Robert Nijhout, graphics design specialist who volunteered for the FairMail project

  • DDiD: Dutch Design in Development, couples Dutch designers to small producers in developing countries.
  • Stimulate sustainable economic development in developing countries.
  • DDiD supports the whole process, is a matchmaker, works towards realizing fairer social and environmental values.
  • Aims for unique product development
  • Example project: FairMail, Peru
    • Municipal waste dump. Many people living and working there in very poor and unhealthy conditions.
    • FairMail organizes photography courses to the kids, by volunteers from all over the world. The photos are sold as postcards (“cards with perspective”) in Peru and the North, leading to sustainable income for the locals. Revenues are split by local community and the individual photographers. Part of the revenues are used for education and health insurance funds for the whole community. The good thing is it stimulates the economy of everybody, from the individual, through the community to the local economy.
    • DDiD provided templates and training (in, for instance, Indesign publishing software) to allow them to produce independently. E.g. photo processing training for the FairMail kids.
    • Good example of “social design” by providing the community with the means to themselves improve their own future.
    • Issue: how to “train the trainers” in order to scale up the impact of such programmes?