How to Facilitate Citizen-Led Social Innovations: Designer-, Maker-, and Funder-Society as Building Blocks

How to Facilitate Citizen-Led Social Innovations: Designer-, Maker-, and Funder-Society as Building Blocks

Seyithan Ahmet Ates (Social Sciences University of Ankara, Turkey)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2097-0.ch005

Abstract

The historical periods of disruptions for almost every field of life underlines the necessity of bottom-up development, which requires citizens to realize its potential and take the responsibility to make a change. Social innovations are believed to play the role that technological innovation did during the industrial development one century ago. Proven experiences suggest that there is an immense need of cultivation of an ‘innov-active' society which is sensitive to the challenges around them, capable of analyzing the situation, determining the point of action, developing alternatives and providing necessary resources in an innovative and collaborative manner without awaiting or expecting the intervention of others. Unlocking the potential of the people necessitates taking advantage of collective intelligence; a participators design approach, improving the community feeling and level of trust; developing necessary tools for action; and improving the active citizenship mindset, which eventually contributes to an entrepreneurship spirit and thus creates a risk-taker and resilient society.
Chapter Preview
Top

Introduction

“Another world is not only possible; she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing” (Fisher & Ponniah, 2003). Arundhati Roy put it well when illustrating the emergence of a new civilization and the potential of citizen-led social innovations.

Evidence in many places around the world suggests that citizens are increasingly taking an active part in shaping this ‘new civilization’ through socially innovative solutions (Ates, Ateş, & Yülek, 2019). People across systems, sectors, and cultures have a shared sense of living in a historical period of disruption: something is ending that we all can define in similar ways, and something new is beginning to emerge that we cannot yet fully comprehend (Scharmer, 2015).

This historical period of disruption underlines the necessity of a bottom-up development, which requires citizens to realize its (their?) potential and take the responsibility to make a change. Social innovations are believed to play the role that technological innovation did during industrial development around one century ago.

A growing number of countries realize that there is an immense need to move from the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) driven development paradigm to development thinking, which focuses more on social progress. This is simply because plain economic activity measured by GDP alone is not enough to represent the well-being of citizens. Achieving a prosperous society as a whole is more complicated than increasing GDP since it necessitates considering several other elements besides robust GDP growth, such as peace and happiness, economic and financial well-being, and individual freedoms and liberties (Urama & Acheampong, 2013).

As the previous president of the European Commission, Manuel Barroso put it well, “we cannot face the challenges of the future with the tools of the past, that is why innovative solutions are necessary to face the challenges of today and future” (European Commission, 2009).

Social innovation is defined as new ideas, products, services, and models that simultaneously meet social needs and create new social relationships or collaborations (Lettice & Parekh, 2010). There is a growing number of socially innovative services, products, or models around the world. Some examples of such recent social innovations are sharing economy practices, time banking, local currency movements, serious games, participatory budgeting, community energy hubs, social cooperatives, new ownership methods, blockchain for social good, citizen labs, citizen science, do-it-yourself movements, cross-sectoral open innovations, repair cafes. The concept of social innovation itself, its drivers, necessary social structures that facilitate it, and the power of social innovation have been gradually explored around the world. Social innovations have the potential to transform society to tackle newly emerging societal problems, thus making society more resilient against current or unprecedented challenges.

Nicholls and Murdock (2012) went so far to label the social innovation as “a sixth wave of macro-innovation following more technology-based predecessors: the industrial revolution; steam and railways; steel, electricity, and heavy engineering; oil, automobiles, and mass production; and information and telecommunications.”

Given the rapid urbanization and its associated challenges, the present time entails creative and proactive societies, a new community of leaders to introduce citizen-led innovative responses by thinking, innovating, and working together to improve social and individual well-being.

There are several challenges today´s societies are confronted with: socio-ecological transformations, a democracy that fails to provide for all persons within a country, an aging society, unequal distribution of wealth, and exclusive growth (Ates et al., 2019). Given its complex nature and the interdependencies of today´s challenges, achieving social and human progress requires new tools, new approaches, collaborative actions, and a ‘maker’ mindset. Tackling these challenges requires not only top-down actions from the government but also bottom-up engagement and innovative local actions taken by citizens and community groups. In creating a smart city or a territory, citizens and community groups have more responsibility than ever in creating, catalyzing, and implementing actionable solutions to the societal challenges in a time of constantly transitioning and evolving world.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Designer Society: Designer society refers to a proactive society capable of identifying their own needs, co-creating alternatives using necessary design tools and platforms collaboratively.

Taker Society: A society in which citizens fail to address the challenges they face and are not eager to participate in existing innovative solutions only work through a top-down approach from the public sector.

Social Innovation: Social innovation is defined as new ideas, products, services, and models which simultaneously meet social needs and create new social relationships or collaborations

Innov-Active Society: Innov-active Society is characterized as an innovative and pro-active society equipped with design, funding, and implementing (making) capacity.

Maker Society: A maker society is composed of citizens who are eager to take an active part in developing socially innovative solutions to the challenges they confront.

Funder Society: Funder society is characterized as providing necessary resources to the initiatives that have the potential to increase social wellbeing by ensuring sustainability, participatory governance, openness and transparency in policies, respect of the rule of law, and social cohesion.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book:
Reset