Social Innovation Factory Group Starts
Partners of the Dutch National Network are forming an international working group to start a European network of incubators based on the principles of the Social Innovation Factory in Belgium. Anyone from the SEiSMiC network can join, either as a participant or as a follower.
What is a social innovation incubator?
The idea, spearheaded by Arjan Biemans and Erna Bosschart of SEiSMiC’s Dutch National Network, was presented at the project’s International Launching Event in Brussels in November 2014. It takes inspiration from the Flemish Sociale Innovatiefabriek (Social Innovation Factory), which seeks to establish a culture of social innovation in Flanders. It does this getting innovators to network with more experienced peers who can provide guidance and feedback on proposals, and help find needed financial support.
On operational level, the factory has three basic tenets: attention to shared value, a focus on social transformation and a focus on and passion for impact. Managing director Kaat Peeters is enthusiastic about exploring possibilities for extending working model more widely in Europe.
What is so special about the Flemish Social Innovation Factory?
There are many incubators, but Biemans and Bosschart like the peer-to-peer working method of the Flemish network combined with its use of a virtual currency, SIF, instead of money. This means members pay for its services with their time and effort rather than monetary fees.
Potential entrepreneurs sign up to the factory’s network and receive advice, feedback and reviews of their plans from other, more experienced peers. In time, they repay the network by giving their own advice, feedback and reviews to new participants. It’s a form of “experience banking” or knowledge exchange.
Biemans and Bosschart have already approached project partners in Austria, Belgium, Italy and Hungary, but they hope to get coverage from other SEiSMiC countries and encourage people to join.
Once a working group is formed, members will be asked to do a quick scan of similar, existing initiatives that might join forces depending on their shared interests.
The working group will then draft a strategy to form a European network of social innovation incubators. This could be presented at, or around the same time of, the next SEiSMiC Forum in April. It is hoped that the network can arrange a meeting with representatives of JPI Urban Europe and the European Commission to discuss further steps.