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Lesson learned from the DSI workshop in Copenhagen

24th February 2017

Serena Cangiano is researcher, interaction designer and fablab manager at SUPSI in Lugano. She leads research projects and educational programs combining design, art and technology with open source and maker practices. Zoe Romano is the co-founder of WeMake makerspace in Milano. Her activities focus on fashion and design practices with social impact and open source business models.

On February 14th DSI4EU were hosted at UNDERBROEN, a not-for-profit association and makerspace in Copenhagen, to run a workshop on Open Making for Social Impact.

The workshop, supported by the Danish Design Center, is one of the training programs distributed by DSI4EU with the goal of supporting the growth of digital social innovation in Europe. We started working on these programs in May 2016 and we’ve been visiting fablabs, makerspaces and the European Maker Faire in Rome to reach the communities that are innovating for social impact.

How can we support the communities of digital social innovators developing open technologies with a grassroots approach?

We’ve been asking ourselves how to design programs for boosting capacity building in this network and we ended up with a host of questions:

  • Why don't we run workshops in which makers and changemakers share their knowledge to support other makers’ projects?
  • Can we use a P2P approach to collect best practices that are not taught at school yet?
  • Finally, can we facilitate a process in which researchers, makers and social entrepreneurs can define their own way of scaling to have a better impact?

In Copenhagen we focused on the area of Open Making, a term which refers to the set of practices commonly associated with the maker movement but also strictly related to the opportunities of creating new ways of making goods, hardware and services with a commons-driven approach and fostered by digital technologies.

During the workshop, we asked participants to suggest a list of actions that open making projects could implement to have a better impact. We selected for our P2P mentoring session two case studies: Precious Plastic and AnotherShoe.

What did we learn?

The workshop participants suggested that projects like Precious Plastic should try to identify and create clusters (e.g.micro entrepreneurships, refugees camps, schools, libraries, plastic craftsmen), to work on launching participatory events and calls that stimulate communities to join the project (e.g. designers creating a brand of recycled plastic goods), to set up partnerships with relevant stakeholders (e.g. Etsy, waste disposal companies) and to understand which conditions prevent their growth.

Projects like AnotherShoe should focus on defining a clear value of the product and the models for the distribution that take into account the issue of the quality of product.

During the second session we introduced our DSI scale. We asked the participants to arrange on a scale from 0 to 4 the potential actions that lead to a better impact in areas such as the target or stakeholder mapping, community engagement and technological openness.

There are many powerful tools which can help digital social innovators clarify better their goals and actions, such as the target mapping tool. The DSI Scale is just another open tool that helps innovators reflect on what scalability means to them.

Below is one interesting example of a DSI Scale developed during the Open Making for Social Impact workshop: the scale suggests that you can reach a better impact if you move from the step 0 (“Designing for an audience of one”) to step 4 (“My product is defined by the need of my stakeholder”).

serena blog image.jpg

Thanks to  “P2P mentoring” session and the creation of DSI scales, we learned a lot from the workshop participants about open making in the context of digital social innovation.

Open making can reach a better social impact when:

  1. It facilitates a process through which a mutual understanding of quality is reached;
  2. There is a setup of networks and services that bring the projects beyond the mere manufacturing of physical products and towards the creation of concrete and complete experiences;
  3. People choose the product or the service not only for the values embedded in it but because it’s good in and of itself;
  4. It is clearly addressed to communities that can benefit from it because it is accessible, environmentally sustainable and inclusive.

If you want to define your DSI Scale please have a look at the alpha version of the DSI toolkit available here. Some examples of DSI scales are available on Github.

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