The Social Innovation Assembly

The First Social Innovation Assembly took place on June 28, 2019 as a lightweight virtual format for exchange and communication among social innovation practitioners, facilitators and researchers hosted by Elke Dall (ZSI – Centre for Social Innovation ). The next SI Assembly will take place on November 29, 10-11.30 am CET and will again be hosted by ZSI – Centre for Social innovation. Registration is available here

In this format, whoever wants to present a social-innovation related project or initiative, seek collaborators or announce an event to all interested parties is invited to do so within a 3 minute time slot of a roughly 90 minute online meeting. Slots are assigned on a first-come-first-serve basis. Listening in without making an active contribution is also welcome.

The Social Innovation Assembly was invented as one of several follow-ups to the SIC project . In its first instantiation, 22 participants were introduced to some 16 projects and initiatives. Specific subjects were social innovations in regional development, cities and rural areas, various learning and training initiatives on social innovation and social entrepreneurship, methods of design thinking and co-creation, European policy to foster social innovation, digital technologies supporting social innovation, housing, poverty, and accessibility of services for people with disabilities. The SIC project also introduced its outputs and sustained activities in policy, learning and research. Thus, the meeting highlighted the relevance of social innovation from the macro-level of policy and strategies to the micro-level of local initiatives and trainings; diverse geographical approaches from the global (cooperation with Latin America) to the local level (social innovation hubs in a specific area of Dublin); diverse possibilities of engagement such as reports available, conferences upcoming, networks being created. Several connections between projects were made during the meeting already through conversations in the chat room.

The Lisbon Social Innovation Declaration

EU policymakers are negotiating Europe’s next long-term budget.Sign the #SIDeclaration today to tell them that Europe needs innovation to benefit everyone.

While industries like pharmaceuticals and automotive are good at getting decision-makers’ attention, the social innovation community – a broad movement of people and organisations innovating for public benefit – often has less influence. We want this to change.

Over the past year, we have asked people working in social innovation all over Europe about how EU policy could enable them achieve an even bigger impact. We heard from more than 350 people from 19 member countries.

You told us you wanted a Europe where civil society, non-state actors and local communities are empowered to define and address challenges that matter to them, such as climate change. You shared a vision for research and innovation which gives greater recognition to the contribution of civil society and the wider public. And you spoke about the need for mainstream innovators (like technologists, firms and research organisations) to rethink their role in driving direct societal benefits.

Finally, you described challenges that can stop social innovation achieving its potential: problems with public procurement, rigid funding structures that don’t allow experimentation, a lack of skills and incentives for public officials to support social innovation.

The Social Innovation Declaration sets out the core values that we want European policymakers to follow as they negotiate the new EU budget and programming.

The Declaration includes 10 specific policy recommendations that we think cut right to the heart of these issues. We want to make social innovation a cross-cutting priority in all EU policies and programmes (such as the European Social Fund Plus or Horizon Europe), and have introduced a number of proposals aimed at using strategic partnerships between EU, national and regional authorities to unleash the power of communities and smaller organisations to drive change.

Click here to download the full Declaration 

Summary in different language: German / French / Italian / Spanish / Greek

This Declaration is a statement of intent from the community to ensure that social innovation is given the political visibility and support it deserves. We need your help to show European decision-makers that we are a powerful and determined force for change in Europe.

Sign the #SIDeclaration here and make history with us! #Spreadit4Europe

The EU will fund more social innovation because it’s the future of innovation” – Carlos Moedas, the European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation

You can read more about SIC’s presentation of the #SIDeclaration to Commissioner Moedas at the Web Summit, Lisbon in our press release here and in this article by Horizon Magazine.

Introducing Design culture in Social Innovation and in the Public Sector

The 20 November 2018 POLIMI/UNIBO run the hot topic workshop on the issue of how to use design competences and methodology in public sector and in social innovation.


The workshop started from the consideration that the economic, demographic, social, and environmental long-term challenges are calling for deep changes, questioning many of the assumptions that have underpinned public services and posing new challenges for institutions, policy makers, civil servants, and communities. While austerity measures are being adopted, innovative solutions based on the active involvement and engagement of citizens emerge as a new paradigm, questioning the established welfare systems and raising quite a few unsolved problems. In this scenario, design thinking (Brown, 2009) is being interpreted as a mean to generate innovative solutions, to reshape services and to change the ways in which they are conceived and delivered. The workshop will investigate how service and participatory design processes can be applied to foster innovation in the public sector, and how prototypes and small-scale experiments can be scaled and turned into diffused practices.


The workshop put together 15 people to discuss the following Main questions and challenges:

What is the desired impact of design culture on public sector and on SI?

How can we introduce design culture as an agent of change in public organisations?

How can we relate design experiments to policy making to create impact and scale innovative solutions in the public sector?



Francesca Rizzo – University of Bologna/Politecnico di Milano

Alessandro Deserti – Politecnico di Milano

Guy Julier – Aalto University

Sabine Juginger Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts

Nicola Morelli – Aalborg University

Anna Meroni – Politecnico di Milano

Daniela Sangiorgi – Politecnico di Milano

Fiorenza Lipparini – Plus value

Stefano Maffei- Polifactory – Politecnico di Milano fablab

Massimo Bianchini – Politecnico di Milano fablab

Stefano Crabu – Politecnico di Milano and University of Padova

Marzia Mortati – Politecnico di Milano


5 PhD students from the Politecnico di Milano PhD programme have been invited on the basis of their research interest as described in their dissertations.

Presentation of the Turin experimentation at the Sev Des international conference 2018

The last 21st of June the SIC experimentation conducted within the Municipality of Turin has been presented within the Serv Des international conference.

The experimentation took place from  November 2016 until June 2018 and it represents original story of introducing Social innovation in public sector as a new paradigm to deal with the challenge of how to innovate public sector offering.

The Social Innovation Assembly

The SI Assembly has been established to continue building a social innovation community as a network of networks and an ecosystem of exchange for social innovation impact in European societies and beyond.

If you are interested to participate in the online meeting of the “Social Innovation Assembly” on June 28, 2019 between 10.00 and 11.30 then please register by following this link:

You are invited to (1) share information on an ongoing initiative or a result (other participants are informed about what is going on), (2) participate to make a future orientated announcement / share a call for action (other participants are asked to do something) or (3) to just participate to listen and get informed as we would like to enlarge and connect the community, exchange information and orchestrate activities.

Taste of Home

Taste of Home: Social Innovation Laboratory

A Taste of Home started as a culinary-cultural-research project introducing the culture, customs and societies of refugees in Croatia to Croatian citizensby recording their memories of homeand the smells and tastes of their cuisine. The project’s missionunderlinesthe importance of the economic emancipation of refugees and persons with migrant backgrounds through culinary and cultural exchange. The major learning obstacle for the initiative was managing the cooperative, as individual members had to leave due to asylum application denials. In order to overcome the gap in knowledge and skills, the team was able to access international partners and capitalize on well-developed relationships, which was critical in the early phases of the project.

download pdf



Dynaklim – Dynamic adaptation of regional planning and development processes to the consequences of climate change in the Emscher-Lippe region


Dynaklim was a regional planning and development process to develop a climate change adaptation strategy for the Emscher-Lippe region. During the course of the project, the elaboration of a Roadmap for 2020 gained relevant importance as a participative tool to develop a common strategy between actors from different institutional and disciplinary backgrounds. The roadmap fleshed out important fields of action, detailing what adaptation measures were to be provided by whom, when and with what resources. Learning how to cooperate and coordinate actions across the network was a pivotal outcome of the project, which was accomplished during the implementation process.

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SIC Summer School in Samsun, Turkey

Spreading social innovation to where it is needed most

Julie Munk

Regional empowerment and peer learning enabled by the SIC summer school

SIC Summer School in Samsun, Turkey

“Our dream is to make sure others have the same options”

These words capture the hopes for the future of a new generation of women in Turkey’s Samsun region. We were stood in a women run cooperative on the outskirts of the biggest city in the region, listening to how, by generating own income, these women were redefining their roles in their society.

We were in the Samsun region for the third SIC summer school, which we hosted in partnership with the Middle Black Sea Development Agency (OKA). The focus was to explore the topic of ‘Regions as social innovation ecosystems’. The Summer School (SUMSIC) was an opportunity for conversation and peer learning, through three days of practical, hands-on problem solving workshops around local challenges.

Samsun is the capital city of the Middle Black Sea Region in the North of Turkey. It is surrounded by agricultural land. The population is traditionally farmers and producers, for whom farming and local produce has been a long  tradition. Despite this, the region has a growing urban population which is growing in 4 cities. There are increasing economic and social differences between rural and urban areas, and the region is struggling with challenges such as safety, abuse of women, seasonal employment and lack of infrastructure.

Social innovation is still a new concept in Samsun, despite a rich tradition of innovative action to tackle the societal challenges in the region. The terminology of social innovation is primarily understood in terms of occupation and output. For instance transforming traditional farming practices in social responsible ways, or cultivating organic produce.

What is the SIC Summer School?

SIC was invited to host a Summer School by the Middle Black Sea Development Agency (OKA), who had attended a previous SIC event in Italy. The SIC Summer School (SUMSIC) is a new model for local and European actors to learn from each other and co-create suggestions together.  The model has been developed by the SIC consortium, and has already been delivered in Tilburg, The Netherlands and Bologna, Italy. It’s purpose is to connect researchers, citizens and local actors (public authorities, industry and organisations) working in social innovation (even if they don’t name it as such ). Together, participants codesign solutions to local challenges, which are presented at the beginning of the 2 days. Each summer school includes inspirational talks from European and local experts, visits to local projects, and design thinking workshops run by experts from SIC.

The Samsun school highlighted local, and global examples including: Buğday Derneği who are developing a new model for Ecotourism; Good4Trust ​an online system for creating a prosumer economy for ecological and social sustainability; and Rootslab, a movement of young women activists in Lebanon who imagine and test innovative ways to change their communities for the better.

A local case study: Women and social innovation in Samsun

“When I was young, my ambition was to learn to drive and have a family. Now I run my own business”

We visited two women cooperatives. The first was AMESIA – Amasya Bee Cooperative, an example of best practice of a cooperative for women in rural development. Not only do this organisation help the woman raise own income, it also helps them to come together and express themselves in their family and social context.

We also visited Sürder, Sürmeli Village, a non governmental organisation established in 2014. Their purpose is to serve the village, providing produce, social assistance and a sense of solidarity among its members, whilst helping promote and develop the common cultural values of the community.

We learned from the local women in the cooperatives about there is a saying in Turkey which was interpreted as “what comes to the hand leaves the hand” and which (said with a smile!). It describes how, in some cases, where only the man is earning a salary,  women don’t have insight into either what is earnt or what is spend – they only deal with the ‘budget’ they are given for household. This is why the rise of the woman cooperative movement in Turkey is so important. Women are driving and managing these new social initiatives, which shift the power balance between who owns and who spends in a family. This is the basis for changes in decision-making processes, increasing equality between genders and within the family relations. Furthermore, this provides woman with a space in society outside of the home, which, in some cases, makes them less vulnerable. A job in the corporative is not just a job.  The women are proud and successful. Employment of women helps overcome societal solitude, provides for a more balanced labour market, and a higher income for families.

Why is it important to have an event like the Summer School in Samsun?

“The summer school made me realise that there are many shared perceptions and that we are not alone’ – “The summer school made me believe in that my work can help make a difference” (participant in Samsun)

Creating change can feel like standing in front of a wall, which is impossible to climb. We tend to find it easier to trust and commit to the perception of the problem than to engage with solutions available. In countries and communities with hierarchical cultures and powerful institutions, citizens and small organisations sometimes distrust their own value add for societal change. The SUMSIC gives people confidence to take action, demonstrates that coming from different backgrounds with different kinds of knowledge is an asset for change.

The SIC summer school in Samsun also demonstrated the power of people collaborating, co-creating solutions to local solutions, and their motivation to making something for someone else. Following the summer school, actors in the region have started discussions about how to connect and link their efforts by hosting more explorative learning events. The institutions have recognised each other, and seen the value of collaboration.

As a regional body, OKA, is well positioned to help create political, economic and social value, as well as striving to become an ‘embedded brain’ within society. They have reconnected with the assets and resources available in across Turkey and in their region in particular and are now looking at funding opportunities.