EXPERIENCE EXCHANGE | Visiting social innovation catalysts in Northern Italy

Most recently, SIC project manager Ieva went on an inspiring visit to the Northern Italian organizations – School of Innovation, UniTrento, CLab Trento, Torino Social Impact and SocialFare. During this visit from 25th to 31st May, she had the opportunity to observe a number of methods and approaches to promote social innovation, as well as  involvement in the implementation of solutions for social issues. The findings and discussions with representatives of the organizations led to very important ideas and insights for improving SIC communication strategy, as well as a potential future strategy of change. Read more about each of the organizations below.

SCHOOL OF INNOVATION AND CLAB AT TRENTO UNIVERSITY

The Innovation School of Trento University is a place where students can learn in a more engaging and thus meaningful way through experiential activities aimed at innovation, creativity and skills development. This is mainly achieved by fostering collaboration (with students from other fields, practitioners from different fields, as well as companies) and challenge-based learning.

It is the only organization in Italy (and perhaps even in Europe) that offers innovation courses that complement an existing degree with ECTS (in addition to the standard university curriculum, a similar concept to the excellence program). The 6-month or one-year program allows students to earn 12 ECTS, and this certificate is highly regarded locally. The school originated from the CLab (Contamination Lab), a physical space that aims to bring together students and other professionals to foster interdisciplinary collaboration, increase creativity, and develop entrepreneurial skills and mindsets. Currently, the organization has a lot of activities focused on innovation, but unfortunately social innovation is not covered very widely. They are interested in finding a way to integrate this social aspect more into their work.

SOCIAL IMPACT TORINO

Social Impact Torino is an initiative founded by the local chamber of commerce, which brings together (now) more than 220 organizations from all walks of life (education, NGOs, business and research institutes, etc.) to promote social innovation and positive impact. The main goal of the organization is to make Turin one of the best cities in the world, where positive social impact is used as a successful tool to promote economic viability and improve the lives of the city’s inhabitants.

Its work is characterized by two pillars – work with network member organizations (projects and activities) and a wide range of communication activities. During the meeting, the representatives of the organization mentioned that they are the unifying element of the ecosystem and try to avoid duplication of work – by not undertaking the activities that its members are already doing, but trying to fill in the missing fgaps. Undoubtedly, communication with the public, but mostly with the members of the organization (their number has grown from about 40 to 220 in a couple of years), is one of the main tasks to not only successfully manage the work, but also to raise awareness of the social impact. Initially, the number of members was much smaller, so the communication activities and strategies discussed during the meeting have partially lost their relevance, but in the near future it is planned to evaluate and improve the communication strategy according to the drastically different requirements (220 members).

SOCIALFARE

SocialFare is the first social innovation center in Italy dedicated specifically to this topic. In terms of its legal form, it is a social enterprise that operates in two directions: social innovation consulting as a service (innovation design, research, education on positive impact, strategy and positive impact assessment, public involvement and capacity building) and a 4-month social innovation incubator. (or, accelerator) program. In its work, SocialFare develops innovative solutions to current social problems, developing economic sustainability in organizations as well as in the region. The work is based on the belief that the benefits to society can foster creativity, economic stability and the transfer of knowledge at different levels.

They have a particularly wide network of partners – international companies and organizations, investors, local organizations, educational institutions and the municipality. Using proven and effective methods (systems design, design thinking, mentoring, etc.) and the collaborations mentioned above, SocialFare offers particularly useful opportunities for development in a variety of areas (which stakeholders / customers, whether companies or municipalities, purchase for a fee, thus ensuring income for the business).

ABOUT THIS PROJECT

With the start of this year we also start our work with the project “Creation of strategy of change and raising the communication capacity of Social Innovation Centre”, funded by the “NGO Fund” of Social Integration Foundation of Latvia. During this project we will try to find out the understanding of Latvian society about social innovation in Latvia, as well as the most effective means in informing them about this topic. Basing on the gained results, SIC will improve activities, communication and the publicly available brand from various aspects. The duration of the project is planned until October 31st, 2022.

Raising the capacity for SIC as an organization will allow strengthening the role of an opinion leader, as well as the public image in the field of social innovation, and moving towards other strategically significant goals (potentially, becoming a contact centre for social innovation matters). With this project we will have an impact on the growth of the organization, and strengthen its role in the NGO sector and broader.

Read more about this project HERE.


This article was created with the financial support of Society Integration Foundation from the means of the national budget of Latvia within project “Creation of strategy of change and raising the communication capacity of Social Innovation Centre”, contract No. 2022.LV/NVOF/MAC/049/36. Only Social Innovation Centre can be held responsible for the content of the article.

 

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