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Learning how to tackle social challenges through digital social innovation

24th January 2018

Matías Verderau from FabLab Barcelona introduces DSI4EU's Skills and Learning cluster. 

Advances in technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning, and the resulting automation of processes previously done by humans, are a growing concern for policymakers in Europe. As more routine tasks become “robotised”, there has been a growing focus on how to ensure that people have the right creative and digital skills to succeed in the twenty-first century.

At the same time, the emergence of new digital technologies such as distributed and open manufacturing can help people - from children to pensioners - to build vital digital and creative skills. Furthermore, there is a growing awareness of how these technologies and skills can be used to tackle social challenges, and to ensure people have the skills to thrive in a world in which many of our known paradigms seem to be crumbling.

Learning and education are a key factor for generating positive changes in our society, since they are the basis of the society of tomorrow, which lies in the hands of future generations. Through our work and others’, we know about many inspiring projects using digital social innovation (DSI) both as a method of learning and a way of delivering positive social changes. These include the Dream Big Challenge, which encourages students to find digital solutions to big challenges; FixEd, a platform which supports educational institutions to teach twenty-first century and STEM skills; Code Club, a global network of school clubs equipping young people with programming skills; Apps for Good, through which young people across the world build their own DSI solutions to social challenges; and hundreds of fablabs and makerspaces across Europe supporting people of all ages to thrive in a digital world.

The main objective of DSI4EU’s new Skills and Learning Cluster, led by Fab Lab Barcelona, ​​is to develop and expand new educational models and skills for the modern day, built upon new digital technologies which democratise access to information, knowledge and fabrication at all levels and generate impacts that were unimaginable in the past.

Over the last 10 years, the Fab Lab Barcelona has developed extensive experience in educational programs, largely through our Future Learning Unit area, a creation lab that supports young people and adults to develop their intelligence, creativity and imagination through different design and digital fabrication formats, as workshops, educational programs and challenges. Its main goal is to deliver the tools and skills which enable people to generate social impact.

We’re also the global coordinators of Fab Academy, the biggest digital fabrication campus in the world, which uses a distributed model of education to support students to make (almost) anything, and we lead the Fab City Global Initiative, a new urban model for locally productive and globally connected self sufficient cities (which also links closely to DSI4EU’s Food, Environment and Climate Change, led by Waag Society). Barcelona, Paris, Cambridge, Amsterdam, Boston, Shenzhen and Curitiba are just some of the cities that are part of this initiative.

Through the Skills and Learning Cluster, we will organise and facilitate events, networking and support for projects and initiatives in Europe that provide tools and skills to students to become agents of change through the delivery and promotion of a new approach to learning for active social innovation. Our activities and events will aim to empower students of all ages, from children to professional adults, including educators and institutions, to encourage the use of digital maker tools, open innovation and collaboration skills to tackle societal problems.

If you’re working on the use of digital, distributed and open tools for education and skills development, and if you’d like to get involved in the Skills and Learning cluster, we’d love to hear from you! Please sign up to the DSI4EU newsletter, profile your work on, or email [email protected] to find out more.



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