It is Friday morning, and I feel like the week lasted about 20 minutes. During the busy week, though, I learned, worked, and began creating even more in this space of innovation that is NetworkedPlanet.

I spent two days at Nesta events. One was a terrific day of learning with other Digital Social Innovators. The programme of speakers was excellent. Whether they were organising volunteers from the tech industry to help people in need (Techfugees) or working as city leaders to transform ancient cities into communities that work better for more people (Barcelona, Milan, Amsterdam), they were really bright and well-trained people who work to make the world a kinder place.

There were two themes that were dominant and are very important:

  1. digital social innovation requires contact with people, and
  2. we have to start measuring the impact of the efforts to digitally socially innovate (just like we do in the rest of the always innovative, social service world).

illustration showing a person saying "what?! people?! But I have a GREAT idea for the way we can write code to solve many social problems!"

I don’t enjoy saying, “I told you so.” I do enjoy getting on with the work that needs to be done.

We, at NetworkedPlanet, and in the social innovation communities have to base our innovations on what we learn from people. Whether we are developing an app or a test or a research project or an education programme. The people with which we engage might not even be potential users of what we are producing. In Barcelona, the Chief Technology Officer, Francesca Bria, spoke passionately about sending researchers out to collect information from persons who do not use any technology.

Digital social innovation is innovation FOR ALL of society.

Francesca Bria, Chief Technology Officer for Barcelona, at “What next for digital social innovation?”

This is what we are doing at NetworkedPlanet, with our targeted combination of technology, data specialists, social science, and community leadership. We are building projects around problems that are repeatedly identified by people, and for which the web-of-data can be used as a powerful tool.

Secondly, we have to start measuring, testing, and studying whether what we are doing is working… or not… or if we even have a valid theory about why we are doing it. This might be rather new to digital social innovators, but the world of social services has loads of resources and knowledge to lend! I became a data strategist in order to help charities get the data collected to enable meaningful learning about programmes (whether or not they are working, how they are working, what is working, and what is not). The same analytical methods can be applied to digital innovations, and it is a fabulous way to get a product right! Without evaluation - by researchers who know how to approach the development curves of innovation - we can’t argue that what we are doing is valuable.

Feel free to send me a note if you want to have an evaluation consultation. The good news is, that measuring impact and producing reports about findings can be really easy when you have a few technical skills. So, you are one step ahead of loads of social innovators that are not in the DSI space.

Thanks for such a great event Nesta! You are a gem! I’m going to get on with what needs to be done, now.

Lea