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DSI4EU at LIFT:Lab2017: The convergence of technology, innovation and society

22nd March 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.

From 1st to 3rd March 2016 we joined Liftlab, the novel format created by Lift, the Swiss organisation which has been working since 2006 at the convergence of technology, innovation and society.

Liftlab took place at the Centre International de Conférences in Geneva and involved 25 teams of innovators that had access to tools, rapid prototyping capabilities, expertise, methodologies and a diverse community of experts.

The goal of the event was to solve challenges related to agriculture, food & energy consumption and mobility through a three-day intense program on design thinking methods to accelerate ideas, business models and prototypes.

The program featured a fully customisable journey that was based on iterative innovation design, collaborative ecosystems and fast-prototyping infrastructures.

At Liftlab, we had the opportunity to coach some projects and discover the amazing work of organisations like Breathing Games, a game platforms to build free/libre and open-source games and devices for asthma, cystic fibrosis, and other chronic respiratory diseases, and Refugee Academy, a Berlin-based organisation helping refugees to access learning and empowerment spaces.

Lift Lab title.png

Picture @BreathingGames

Why was DSI4EU there? As DSI ambassadors in Europe we were asked to offer an interactive session on “Commons-driven Business Models for Social Impact”: in the session we attempted to define, together with some Liftlab teams, the key values for building business models based on DSI values such as the engagement and empowerment of people and practices based on collaboration, sharing, and openness.

Building a business model based on commons and open resources is an important challenge and, as John Thackara says, “openness is matter of survival”, rather than an alternative option. There is a scarcity of powerful models and resources, so we want people to be engaged in the process of thinking about how to integrate openness and social impact into real innovation projects and  to offer their brain power to invent possible new solutions.

Lift lab image 2.png

During the session we presented a few examples of how digital social innovation projects build their own models of sustainability: Open Corporates, the platform that works to make information about companies and the corporate world more accessible, offers paid use of the platform to people who intend to keep the product of the data private (similar to platforms for collaborative coding such as GitHub).

The first goal was to understand together what a common is and how it can be created. We then asked participants to reflect upon the possibility of identifying common in their projects and to understand how to generate and share it for the social good.

We learned some lessons during our session and, in general, at the Liftlab. For example, we clearly realised the need to start innovating companies’ internal cultures, not just products and processes; and we realised that there is still a lack of knowledge around the potential benefit of choosing an open-source approach on hardware products. Even if a lot of start-ups and organisations have understood and used open-source software, when you move from bit to atoms, the traditional approach on intellectual property is the norm, because there’s not a high level of awareness of the new models based on Creative Commonsand open licenses.

This means that the DSI network can give a meaningful contribution, on one side revealing the areas and topics on which we could build upon, and on the other promoting and fostering informal training processes to fill the knowledge gaps.

More information about the Lift:lab and the amazing experts community is published here. A complete flicker gallery is accessible here.

We would like to thank Abir Oreibi and Greg Bernarda and, from the Lift Conference team, Augustin Solioz and Clément Drévo.

Lift 3.png

Picture @Lift

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