The unprecedented hyper connectivity enabled by digital technologies and the Internet are rapidly changing the opportunities we have to address some of the society’s biggest challenges: environmental preservation, reducing inequalities, fostering inclusion, putting in place sustainable economic models.
However, to make the most of this opportunity we need to move away from the current centralization of power by a small number of large tech companies and enable a much broader group of people and organisations to develop and share innovative digital solutions.
Across Europe, a growing movement of people is exploring opportunities for Digital Social Innovation (DSI), developing bottom-up solutions leveraging on participation, collaboration, decentralization, openness, multi-disciplinarity. But still at a relatively small scale, because of the little public and private investment in DSI, the limited experience in large-scale take-up of collective solutions, and the relative lack of skills of DSI actors (civil society) compared to commercial companies.
This Manifesto aims at fostering civic participation into democratic and social processes, increasing societal resilience and mutual trust as core element of the Digital Society. It provides recommendations for policy makers, to drive the development of the European Digital Single Market to fulfill first and foremost societal and sustainability challenges (rather than short-lived economic interests), with the help and engagement of all citizens.
The key points for the Manifesto
Steps towards the preparation of the final version of the DSI Manifesto
1. Financial support
Ensure that funding for innovation in the digital society – whether at EU, national, regional or city level – reaches the actors and areas with most potential for societal benefits:
- Governance: Redefine the governance rules for public research programmes, assigning a leading role to social innovators (such as makers, start-ups, researchers, social enterprises, civil society associations and NGOs) rather than to large and established companies with powerful lobbies.
- Methodology: structure funding to fit the distinct stages of innovation – from early stage design to incubation and acceleration and then through to scaling up.
- Additional sources: leverage public sector procurement opening it up to the above-mentioned civil society actors and sustainability areas. Increase access to alternative sources of finance and cross-border crowdfunding.
Develop EU and national funding streams to promote pilots that can explore emerging solutions and demonstrate the long-term potential of DSI on the example of the program CAPS (Collective Awareness Platforms for Sustainability and Social Innovation), for example in healthcare, democracy, making, environment, energy, or new economic models (such as the sharing economy):
- Bring together existing communities of citizens with entrepreneurs, social innovators and institutions, to assess the real effectiveness of DSI solutions and align regulation, law, technology and user needs in order to eliminate barriers to innovation.
- Set technological priorities of public research programmes as the most effective to cope with societal challenges: low-cost or collaboration potential may be more important than sheer performance.
- Public adoption: make sure that EU and public institutions are the first ones to test and adopt DSI approaches.
3. Digital skills and multi-disciplinarity
One of the biggest barriers to making the most of DSI is the significant gap in the skills and capacity to experiment with and develop new digital social innovations. The development of easy-to-use and effective solutions requires a complex combination of expertise from disparate different technological and social domains, which is not provided by the traditional education systems.
- Promote digital skills among citizens, NGOs and other community organisations, to enable them to get advantage of digital technologies – and contribute to their development into social directions.
- More ICT curricula: information technologies and coding skills, as well as a broad multidisciplinary understanding of Internet governance, should be part of the core curricula both in schools and universities – which requires massive training for teachers as well.
- Incentives for multi-disciplinarity: novel approaches and support are sought to fostering collaboration between the tech community, social scientists and civil society organisations (such as the presence of multiple disciplines in consortia to be funded by public programmes, such as in CAPS).
4. Democracy and decentralization
The decentralized Internet has insofar be a powerful support for democracy and participation in every part of the world. DSI solutions can effectively be harnessed for elections, consultations, deliberations, policy making. And, even in a world dominated by a few de facto Internet monopolies, DSI can inspire new decentralized models for the management of personal data, ensuring citizens’ sovereignty over their digital life and providing them with a broader choice of solutions, which is a basic need for advanced democracies (see for instance the DECODE project).
- Accelerate democracy projects which aim at integrating digital tools into every aspect of democracy, from campaigns and proposals to policy design, spending and scrutiny – and encourage leadership from municipalities, parliaments, political parties, whether through funding, advocacy or convening.
- Showcase open democracy: analyze, compare and give broader visibility (for further replicability) to the open democracy and participatory budgeting practices implemented by several European cities.
- Promote citizens’ and political awareness and political attention towards these new forms of citizen engagement and to the risks (privacy, monitoring) entailed by centralized solutions.
Avoiding that citizens of the digital world are locked into proprietary solutions and guaranteeing access and a level playground for fair competition to actors of any size is essential for realizing the full potential of collaborative solutions. EU and national public institutions should promote laws and programmes that make data and digital platforms open as default:
- Mandate Open-Source (and possibly free) software in national and EU funding streams. Encourage development and adoption of Open Hardware (hardware which people can adapt, hack and shape into tools for social change with no legal limitation).
- Promote Open Data approaches (innovative ways of opening up, capturing, sharing, using, analysing and interpreting open data).
- Sustain Open Knowledge (communities supported by online platforms that collectively analyse data, develop and analyse new types of knowledge or crowdfund social projects).
The consultation will be open until the end of August 2017 (with some intermediate dates at which results will be collected and presented). The CAPS, DSI communities and all relevant players all across the globe are invited to help us spreading the voice and gather contributions from all active players.
- The current version of the Manifesto is being published in the CAPS Community portal for open consultation, asking the community to express agreement/disagreement on each of the 5 points, and suggest alternative/additional perspectives.
- In parallel, we will invite the CAPS / DSI community to support and promote the consultation beyond the CAPS/DSI borders though this dedicated web site .
- The community will have the chance to endorse the current version of the Manifesto online, once they have completed the questionnaire.
- Disseminate the draft Manifesto through different events.
- Provide input to the Next Generation Internet initiative as appropriate.
- Update the DSI Manifesto with collected requirement from now to 17th May and present the consolidated version at the DSI Manifesto workshops to be held in Rimini (Italy) on the 23rd May 2017 as starting point for final discussion/refinements.
- During the DSI Manifesto workshop we will work with the audience to validate, comment, suggest examples and/or enrich the document.
- A “physical” DSI Manifesto will be built with giant carton Play Edo blocks. A co-creative breakdown sessions is being organized by the CHiC consortium in collaboration with a local Startup during the DSI Manifesto workshop.
- Participants will be given the option to “sign” the manifesto in place symbolically.
- The first consolidated version of the Manifesto, updated after the DSI Manifesto Workshop, will be published online.
- Remote audience will be given the opportunity to sign electronically the Manifesto via the dedicated area.