Exploring the social innovation landscape in Dortmund

From the 4th to the 7th of February, SIKE project partners from Croatia, Portugal, Scotland and Spain were welcomed in Dortmund, Germany in order to reflect on current and future developments of the project and to learn about social innovation in the Ruhr Region and the federal state North Rhine-Westphalia. The first half of the event organized by the partnering Technical University Dortmund took place in the Social Research Center (sfs). 
On Monday, an extra day was scheduled in order to have a gathering of consortium members to discuss content of site visits and training programmes as well as the SIKE Unit blueprints.

For the second day, a variety of experienced speakers were invited such as Prof. Jürgen Howaldt, director of the Social Research Centre (sfs) of TU Dortmund University, who reflected on the role of academia in social innovation. In order to do so, he shared the main findings from the project SI-DRIVE. Mark Anderson, director of Research and Innovation at Glasgow Caledonian University as well as project coordinator of SIKE, presented the experience of his university which includes numerous Erasmus+ projects in the area of social innovation, such as LASIN  and SEASIN. The initiative KoSI-Lab was introduced by Eva Wascher from TU Dortmund University and Arne Elias from the City of Dortmund Economic Development Agency. Additionally, Dirk Johann (Catholic University of Applied Sciences Cologne) and Jens Koller (Protestant University of Applied Sciences) described how the “Network for Transfer and Social Innovation – s_inn” makes a strong contribution to regional development, focussing on the third mission. From a practitioners’ view, Theresa Zöckler of the inclusive Social Impact Lab Bonn talked about her organisation’s work in the field of social innovation. Furthermore, Javier Finez of Business Innovation Brokers gave an insight of the social innovation ecosystem in the Basque Country.

After the qualified input, the event concluded with an interactive workshop encouraging all participants to have a lively exchange of thoughts and discussions on how to improve knowledge exchange between different academic and societal spheres regarding social innovation. 
While addressing this, the main focus lay on the three missions of universities (teaching, research and the third mission) as well as the benefits of direct exchange between practitioners and higher education institutes.

PIKSL as the host of a workshop for the international SIKE-Team in Düsseldorf
On the following Wednesday, the site visit continued in the PIKSL (Person-centered interaction & communication for more self-determination in life) Lab Düsseldorf. 
The PIKSL project was initiated in 2010 by the Düsseldorf based “In der Gemeinde leben gGmbH” (IGL). The aim of the project is to provide barrier-free access to modern information technologies and media for people with digital educational needs. Therefore, PIKSL brings together people with and without disabilities in its laboratories in Düsseldorf and Bielefeld to jointly develop products and services. People with learning difficulties are actively involved in problem solution and innovation processes. They are the experts in reducing the complexity of digital content. PIKSL cooperates with higher Education Institutions as well as economic partners.

The hosts of the PIKSL project around Marius Mews and Tobias Marczinzik invited to the workshop operated by Jennifer Eckhardt and Christoph Kaletka of TU Dortmund University to share experiences and perspectives. The key subject of the workshop were in particular the highlighting of similarities around the aspect of co-creation as well as the efforts to scale and disseminate socially innovative initiatives. The possibilities and limitations of the presentation of social impact within the framework of special business reports and the potentials of science and practice collaborations were points of mutual interest in the lively discussions.

SIKE visits Nordwärts
Finally, on February 7th, the members of the SIKE project paid a visit to the initiative “Nordwärts”. Harriet Ellwein from the municipality of Dortmund, which is running Nordwärts, introduced the initiative and presented the structure and general concept. It aims to strengthen especially the socially as well as economically challenged city districts in the northern part of the city of Dortmund.

Nordwärts functions as the first contact place for citizens and their concrete ideas for improvement. The initiative develops concepts with them, provides a citywide network of possible supporters and is looking for a sustainable way to finance this projects.
Afterwards, the project partners had the opportunity to ask questions and to learn how cooperation with HEIs can contribute to the development of such a local initiative incorporated into the public body.

To conclude the German site visit, all partners had a meeting reflecting on the last four days, the challenges and opportunities offered for each region and the SIKE project in general. 
The site visit to North Rhine-Westphalia revealed similarities between the participating regions, demonstrated the potential of generally applicable concepts and helped to develop the international social innovation community. The next site visit in the SIKE project will take place in Spain and in Portugal in March.

More detailed information about PIKSL and Nordwärts can be found on the SIKE website in the “resources – case studies – Germany” section.

Dmitri Domanski (TU Dortmund University), Patrick Oberberg (Social Impact)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.