Social Innovation Safari

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During the Social Innovation Safari organized by Kennisland/ Knowledgeland (KL) multidisciplinary teams worked on a variety of cases by different private and public organisations in the Amsterdam area. One of those cases and the outcomes is highlighted below.

Ijburg, being one of Amsterdam’s recently developed areas experienced a bumpy expansion. The administration of the area is quite complex, different private and public bodies being stakeholders, and also the community is shaped by a bright collage of commuters, young families, elderly, teenagers, immigrants, tourists and business and social, private and public housing. Over the years this lead to several complexities, like:
– an increase in so called ‘mallification’ and decrease in small shops
– fragmented social cohesion
– a shortage of public provisions (because of a delay in the development of Ijburg due to economic circumstances)
– feelings of unsafety

The Safari team dealing with this case decided, after extensive fieldwork and interviews, that one of the main bottlenecks was that the way Ijburg is set up makes the community live more inward than outward.
The most plausible solution was to connect existing citizens-&public initiatives and knowledge on Ijburg to aim for a more explicit common agenda, increasing the range and connectivity of what was already organised. An ‘operator’ for this network of initiatives, knowledge and people was available.

The network simultaneously would operate as a ‘brand campaign’, making itself seen and known for its ability to connect and support people in contributing to what happens at Ijburg, inciting others to join in and develop their ideas, in this way keeping the initiatives in motion.
By connecting potential partners, the network can set the agenda for existing issues by means of organising competitions for people to participate, but also invites citizens to introduce and develop their own ideas for initiatives.Thus sustaining its role as a solid partner in the development and growth of the entire Ijburg area (another 3 islands planned)
The proposal of the Safari team confirmed an existing budding initiative and appealed to a present infrastructure of active citizens. The case of Ijburg was a great example of where public and private interests coincide and benefit from mutual growth.
The entire exploration resulted in a recently launched initiative ‘Ijburg-droomt (dreams)-Ijburg-doet (does)’, for more look at

For more information about the Social Innovation Safari, look at

This was an introduction to Mylene’s participation in the Safari.

So…I was thinking what would be the best way of getting across (to you, the participants) what made me get all excited about this idea of KL organizing a Social Innovation Safari. Apart from the fact that I’m a great fan of what they do, consider them to be quite a special bunch of people and feel fortunate enough to have worked with them on several occasions, I loved this idea of an innovation safari and thought timing just couldn’t have been better. It’s about time for social innovation!
I still remember the day that I discovered that a product was actually way more than just a user object, but also a means of communication…. To cut short this discovery lead to Who cares? which started out as a series of products that invited users to be more involved with their environment. That sounds pretty broad I know, but then again we all know what it’s like to feel that involvement with things around us. Just simply cause we all do somehow in our own daily life.
My approach to design easily links to social innovation, uptill today as a designer but also in person I’m still intrigued by the way people “consume” everything around them. Social innovation is tightly related to (social) design. In times of change also the role of design is reconsidered. The last couple of decades uberconsumption lead to uberdesign. The fundamental positive inclination of design to look for identity and added value in the last couple of decades seemed to result in what appeared to be an unlimited flow of interesting but quite lavish ego objects, more ready for curratorial purposes than being ‘design for the real world’, as coined by social design’s godfather, Victor Papanek. The art and design world hitching a ride on the accelerated pace of production and reproduction of visual statements. In the end only the ones that truly carry the sign of the time remain however.
Or as Papanek puts it: ‘At a time where we are confronted with all sorts of threats to the environmental, climate, religious, political and social sphere, an engaged, committed and innovative attitude of designers is called for. How should we deal with habits and traditions of shifting groups of people and their perception in the design of public space and consumer products? Presumably only by taking into account the complete interrelatedness of social, cultural, economic and technical aspects a satisfactory outcome of the designprocess can be achieved. It’s expected that this comprehensive and conceptual approach to the design profession can offer a better contribution to society and the environment. Designers are challenged to achieve a balance between the sustainable quality of the product and the presence of emotional and cultural dimensions like for example identity, beauty and memory.’

Design for me never was just about products or services, but very much about social dynamics. Because we already have all our hearts’ desire, but what we are constantly in need of in dynamic and ever more complex social environments is to facilitate time and again better social dynamics. That’s where I think a real challenge for design is, to figure out it’s role in creating these renewed social dynamics. Everything in daily life is designed, I’m sure design can do more for this too.