With more than 100 speakers and 1000 participants, the ERA Conference represented a key milestone to ensure boosting of social innovation initiatives for and in the whole Europe.
Jointly organised by the European Commission, the Portuguese Government and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, throughout a very rich programme, this event has given the opportunity to gather world-class scientists in the area of social innovation, innovators, social entrepreneurs, civil society representatives, national and regional policy makers, municipal and city level actors, social innovation funders, philanthropists, venture capitalists, business angels, students, and politicians.
Among the many personalities and high-level representatives of the Portuguese government, including the president Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and the prime minister Antonio Costa, the EU Commissioner Carlos Moedas gave an inspirational speech stressing the importance of dedicated efforts to ensure social innovation will “improve our lives by bridging the gap between science, technology and society. It empowers people so that they can solve the complex problems that they face.”
In parallel to the main conference, which offered several keynotes presentations, panels and workshop sessions, an extremely interesting exhibition showcasing social innovation projects and offering hands-on demonstrations was organised.
For the whole CAPS and broader Digital Social Innovation community it was an extremely relevant opportunity to promote the work done so far and position the relevance of connected technologies for social good in the broader context provided by the ERA conference.
In particular, several CAPS projects were given the opportunity to present their vision, work and main outcomes at the workshop on “Connected Social Innovation” that was chaired by Loretta Anania (DG Connect, European Commission) during the afternoon of the first day of the ERA Conference.
During this session, the coordinator of the ChiC project, Dr. Monique Calisti, Director of Martel Innovate, took the opportunity to present to the audience the whole CAPS initiative, the various support and coordination activities that are being pursued in order to ensure broader impact of individual projects and organisations, stressing in particular the importance of the Digital Social Innovation Manifesto initiative.
The DSI 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 fulfil first and foremost societal and sustainability challenges (rather than short-lived economic interests), with the help and engagement of all citizens.
“To share the DSI Manifesto initiative in the broader context offered by the ERA Conference” says Dr. Calisti “represents a unique opportunity to gain broader consensus and give a stronger voice to a growing number of initiatives that are putting technologies at the service of the society for the good of its citizens.”
This is not an easy task, but the whole CAPS community is actively engaged on this front through a number of concrete actions fostered across a number of domains, from collaborative economy, to open democracy, data protection, environmental actions, etc.
“The next era of social innovation in Europe is there, but we need to face a geo-political, legal and cultural diversity, which can slow down the overall social innovation process.” The ChiC Coordinator adds. “We have to create conditions for innovation to bring value and impact in a very tangible way starting at a local, urban, regional level and grow bigger. This requires orchestrated plans to reform our education systems and to ensure investments that allow research and innovation to address the sustainability and social challenges. We cannot expect technical progress will help addressing societal issues, without socio-economic issues to be part of the R&D agenda in the first place.”