This month, the SocKETs labs are kicking off their experimentation journey. They will test ideas and tools for changing the innovation process to better serve the citizens’ interests. SocKETs is not the first project aiming to change relationships along the whole value chain of product development so let’s dive together into SocKETs philosophy to understand what it means to co-create and engage citizens for SocKETs.
New technologies are undeniably shaping the future of our society and taking a prominent place in citizens’ lives. Whether for recreative purposes, communication, transportation, bank and finance services or health, emerging technologies are – again – disrupting things as they stand, offering new potentials and bringing new societal and ethical questions. Some of these sectors are particularly of interest and have a huge potential for innovation.
However, at the moment, it is an overstatement to claim that citizens have a major role to play in the development of such technologies. Their participation, when it exists, is often reduced to simple consultation, and they rarely have the occasion to be involved in the development process from the start.
In SocKETs, we believe that early and continuous societal engagement is key to improve the quality, desirability and sustainability of innovations, and we are ready to roll our sleeves and turn these convictions into action!
By “we”, we mean the SocKETs labs, that are kicking off their experimentation journey this month.
They have the aspiration to become a meeting point between society and Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) development, to make sure that the advancement of innovation – in collaboration with citizens and other actors of society – better serves the public interests and is accountable to citizens.
How will they ensure this?
The Sockets labs are using the Social labs approach. This methodology has recently gained popularity in Europe and is rooted in two branches: experiential learning, an academical courant that promotes learning as an experience, and also citizen labs that offer a space for physical encounters between society and other important domains of interests for society: science, business, urban transformations etc.
The social labs are:
- SOCIAL: they bring together diverse participants to work in a team that acts collectively. The participation of diverse stakeholders goes beyond consultation.
- EXPERIMENTAL: they are not one-off experiences. They’re ongoing and sustained efforts. The team doing the work takes an iterative approach to the challenges it wants to address, prototyping interventions and managing a portfolio of promising solutions.
- SYSTEMIC: The ideas and initiatives developing in social labs, released as prototypes, aspire to be systemic in nature. This means trying to come up with solutions that go beyond dealing with a part of the whole or symptoms and address the root cause of why things are not working in the first place.
Our SocKETs Labs
Our 6 SocKETs labs and their topics:
- Danish Technological Institute (Denmark) – eHealth
- Center for the Promotion of Science (Serbia) – eHealth
- Centre for Research and Analysis (Bulgaria) – eHealth
- AHHAA Science Centre (Estonia) – Circular Economy
- Italian Association for Industrial Research (Italy) – Circular Economy
- Tecnalia Research & Innovation (Spain) – Automation system
Prior to the start of their experimentation, the SocKETs lab have already initiated a thorough analysis of their local and cultural context . With a better understanding of who are the actors involved (directly or not) in the innovation process, and how their local citizens perceive technology and science, they are now well equipped to move onto the practical phase of the project and address relevant societal questions directly with those concerned.
For the first step of the SocKETs experimentation, our six local labs will sit down with different stakeholders involved in the innovation process and technology development. They will invite them to reflect on their local and national innovation ecosystem and on the acceptance and cultural conditions towards the engagement of citizens in technologies development. Further in the discussion, participants will jointly select relevant societal challenges that will be addressed within the SocKETs lab activities by developing innovations based on emerging technologies with the involvement of everyone, including citizens.