SI Drive Kick-Off

28.02.2014 Blog

On the 17th and 18th of February, twenty-five different partners from around the world gathered together in Dortmund for the kick-off meeting for the SI Drive project, funded under the European Union’s FP7 programme. The project name stands for ‘Social Innovation – Driving Force for Change’ and will look at the ways in which social innovation is driving social change throughout the world. In particular, partners are going to focus their energies in seven specific areas: education, employment, health and social care, poverty reduction, transport and mobility, energy supply and environment. The project will run until the end of 2017.

The kick-off meeting was a chance for partners to meet each other, a welcome opportunity given the fact that this is a global project and partners come from such diverse locations as China, South Africa, Columbia and Egypt. The first day of the meeting was focused around activities which made that possible, including a round of ‘speed dating’ and also some discussion questions which allowed us to share our thoughts on key issues in the field. In particular, we debated the relationship between social innovations and systemic change, and considered in which area of society there was the most untapped potential to drive social innovation – the economy, civil society, science or policy?

We also received a guided tour around the city of Dortmund, which included the chance to see some home-grown social innovations. I chose to visit a hub for female social entrepreneurs, who were given office space and help with setting up a business. The hub is located in one of the more disadvantaged areas of the city and is aimed to help women who are in particular need. In the evening we were fortunate to attend a reception in the city’s famous U-Tower - a former brewery building which has been turned into a centre for the arts - featuring an address from the Mayor of Dortmund.

After the first day of introductions, the second day was focused more on the content of the project. We split into seven groups and had extremely fruitful discussions around the current state of social innovation in each of the seven areas which the project has chosen as a particular focus. We also heard from Flor Avelino about the TRANSIT Project, which will run concurrently with SI Drive but will focus more explicitly on the relationship between social innovation and transformative change. Jeremy Millard presented to the group regarding the TEPSIE Project, which is now in its final stages but which set out to map the theoretical, empirical and policy foundations of social innovation in Europe. This is a project that my team at The Young Foundation have been heavily involved with, and I know that we are very glad that we will be able to bring our findings from TEPSIE to the table and make sure that they are integrated within the work being done by SI Drive.

The conference closed with a real buzz and feeling of possibility in the air – I feel very lucky to be working with such an accomplished team of partners, and I am excited for what the next few years will bring.

Image sourced from erix! via Flickr under a Creative Commons License