The mission of the Social Activation and Experimentation team is to find and foster the diverse community we need to deliver on EIT Climate-KIC’s strategy, Transformation, in Time.
To do this, we have three key principles that guide what we do, how we make decisions and who we prioritise working with. These are outlined below.
As part of Climate-KIC’s theory of change, we believe that transformative innovation requires multiple actors from across the system to imagine, think and create together. This innovation approach is not new, and has been adopted by many governments and innovation actors across the world. However, in practice, what is commonly missing is genuine difference and diversity. In the multitudes of labs, agencies and collaborative vehicles established across the world, many have the same types of organisations and institutions. Many more use the same methods and approaches to innovation.
We want to challenge that. Therefore, our first key goal is to find people who are acting differently and find ways to create, make and do things with them. Who are the voices that are not inside the climate debate but should be? Who are the people who are in the debate but don’t know it? This will be extremely wide and varied, and will always need to change, grow and evolve. However, as an example, in 2019 we focussed on bringing arts and culture into the community and experimenting with real world, practical and tangible steps that they can take toward a better future.
This is not an easy task. It almost always requires the bringing together of different worlds. And this is precisely why it’s so important.
However, we must be clear that this is not about being different for its own sake. The most important part of working with ‘unusual actors’ is ensuring we have the skills, behaviours and ways to connect them with the institutions, organisations and people who have led the climate debate over the past decades. It’s only when we bring these groups together that we truly get the complimentary difference needed to drive the type of radical transformation required.
Around the world we are constantly seeing examples of communities being the best place to deliver change. The same projects done in different locations work (or don’t) depending on the strengths of the community around it. But what exactly are the attributes of a community? What brings them together? What keeps them together? We call this the glue.
What we know so far is that it’s almost always emotional or connection based. It’s a sense of identity, purpose, belonging and wanting to create a better tomorrow. We also know why people come and stay together is extremely varied. We know this because we’ve been identifying, talking and experimenting with excellent examples of communities across the world. We’ve been undertaking desktop research, doing interviews and immersing ourselves in understanding this topic from as many angles as possible. But we need to know so much more. This is especially true when we are trying to solve for a challenge of this scale (entire planet) and on this accelerated time frame (10 years before we do irreversible damage). We are yet to find examples of communities that operate on this scale of magnitude whilst still maintaining the sense of connection and emotion.
Therefore, our second key goal is to understand the different types of conditions (glue) that make communities successful. When, where and how do they work? When don’t they work? Taking that goal a step further, and respecting that we must work at both the hyper-local level as well as at the ‘planetary scale’, we must create the experiments that allow us to learn and build that understanding.
We need more happy accidents
We need more happy accidents
True transformation happens when the right people are in the right place at the right time. They have to bump into each other, strike up a conversation, that conversation needs to lead them to learning they have some things in common but also have some differences of opinion. Creative sparks need to fly. We call this serendipity, or a happy accident.
It’s not possible to predict or control serendipity, but we think it’s possible to create opportunities for happy accidents to occur more often. Understanding how is our third key goal. The world is full of workshops, ideation events, meetings, coffee and croissants. But these don’t seem to be working. We need to find alternate ways of creating the chance for serendipity.
This is going to require innovative spaces, places, interaction methods. Currently we are exploring a number of mechanisms for this, including our largest experiment in this space which is Exaptive – our fully open source online digital platform to connect people with complementary differences together.
What we do
What we do
Every initiative we do is to activate communities who can help us deliver on EIT Climate-KIC’s strategy Transformation, in Time. Every part of our organisation works on this concept to a greater or lesser extent. However, the critical role the Social Activation and Experimentation team plays is in ensuring that Climate-KIC has a network of communities and early stage projects and experiments that are on the front edge.
Most importantly, we specifically work in the areas that are emerging as critical to climate change but where Climate-KIC currently does not have strong networks or capabilities. We have based this approach on Bill Sharpe‘s ‘three horizons’ work. We aim to always operate at the second (H2 plus) and third horizon. A short summary of the horizons are below:
- The first horizon – H1 – is the dominant system at present. It represents ‘business as usual’. We rely on these systems being stable and reliable. But as the world changes, so aspects of business as usual begin to feel out of place or no longer fit for purpose. Eventually ‘business as usual’ will always be superseded by new ways of doing things.
- The second horizon – H2 – is a pattern of transition activities and innovations, people trying things out in response to the ways in which the landscape is changing. Some of these innovations will be absorbed into the H1 systems to improve them and to prolong their life (we call them ‘H2 minus’) while some will pave the way for the emergence of the radically different H3 systems (these we call ‘H2 plus’).
- The third horizon – H3 – emerges as the long term successor to business as usual. It grows from fringe activity in the present that introduces completely new ways of doing things but which turn out to be much better fitted to the world that is emerging than the dominant H1 systems.
But we are not only at the edge. The absolutely crucial element of being successful in this work, is the integration with the whole, as described in our key principle 1 – the most important part of working with ‘unusual actors’ is ensuring we have the skills, behaviours and ways to connect them with the institutions, organisations and people who have led the climate debate over the past decades.
How we do this
How we do this
Our key capability is to turn ‘fuzzy ideas’ into ‘real things’ that can be tested. The way we do that is to build experiments, projects, initiatives with our community and EIT Climate-KIC colleagues. We choose initiatives that allow us to test our key principles and to take meaningful steps towards our goals.
The core skills we use everyday to achieve this are:
- Experience of exploring and understanding complex, fuzzy ideas and projectising/operationalising them into tangible and practical actions.
- Knowledge of a suite of design, collaboration, research and agile methodologies.
- Relationships with a broad range of networks, and networks of networks.