City of Malmo: Innovation forums and incubating social innovation

The City of Malmo is conducting a pre-study investigation funded by the European Commission into how they might establish a series of ‘Innovation forums’ in four deprived areas of the city. They see it as a method to generate new ideas and develop real solutions to some of Malmo’s social problems through inclusive processes well-rooted in the community.

It is widely accepted that incubators, hubs and learning spaces are essential for building capacity better suited to apply rigorous innovation to meet societal challenges. Effectively designed spaces can be more than shared work spaces. They can take a variety of forms – some incubate innovations by providing a ‘safe’ space for collaboration and experimentation; some connect entrepreneurs with the supports they need to grow their innovations; and others help to spread innovations by developing networks and collaborations. Throughout the world there are a number of models, run by both governments, cities, innovation and design agencies – some which focus more on the kind of space that enhances creativity and innovation, and others which focus more on the processes of innovation.

As part of the ‘Innovation forum’ preliminary study activity plan, Malmo City collaborated with SIX to host two global discussions via TelePresence which explored the various models of social innovation labs and hubs throughout the word that have a remit of finding new approaches to social problems. Through these sessions, we brought together those at the forefront of the new generation of incubators all over the world which are beginning to manage the processes of understanding priority fields; creative design and ‘ideation’; prototyping and piloting; and then turning innovations into hybrid ventures, new services and products.

Hubs and Incubators for Social Innovation

The first of the TelePresence discussions was on Hubs and Incubators for Social Innovation. On the 30th September participants from London, Copenhagen, Madrid, Brussels, Paris, Washington, Espoo, Toronto, and Oslo came together to compare and contrast a variety of structures which support the development of new ideas to tackle societal challenges. All over the world, there are now dozens of centres, hubs, accelerators, labs and incubators – all designed to encourage, support, and promote, social innovation in various different ways. Often these organisations focus on the quick development, testing and implementing of new solutions. Some of these structures are embedded within the public sector; others are embedded in local communities. Some of these centres are physical spaces, others are virtual. Many reach out and work with multiple partners – from business, to government to NGOs. So how can we decide which is the right model for which city? Which kind of space and structure can best support the development and incubation of ideas and lead to real practical solutions?

Through this global discussion, SIX brought together those who have created environments to support and grow social innovation to discuss these issues and share how they engage multiple actors and work in a meaningful way with local communities. For more information have a look at the the discussion notes from this session.

How to create environments for Social Innovation to flourish?

For the second session, on the 4th October, participants from London, Adelaide, Canberra, Sydney, Copenhagen, Lagos, Seoul and Zagreb came together to explore how to create environments for Social Innovations to flourish.

Active co-creation is key to effective social innovation. It is widely accepted that the better the engagement between service users and service designers, the better the new solutions will be. Finding effective ways to solve social problems is no longer a job for governments alone, and hubs or incubators embedded in the community can be a great tool to facilitate such communication.

What many of these spaces have in common is that they all proactively engage different parts of society in order to quickly find, test, and implement new solutions to social problems; they strive to work collaboratively with multiple partners, with a particular focus on community level engagement. But which models and processes work best? How can social innovation hubs and incubators improve information flows and partnership working between citizens, NGOs, businesses and the municipality? Who should be involved and what is the best way to engage multiple actors?