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Social Innovation Ecosystems and Cities. Exploring North and South Experiences

Thu, July 15, 2:00 to 3:00pm, Virtual 2021, 4

Session Submission Type: Roundtable Discussion


This roundtable aims to discuss, from an international perspective, different analytical and methodological approaches to understand Social Innovation Ecosystems (SIEs) and their inscription and consequences on cities. To this end, the table will have a space for exposing and debating different experiences and analytical perspectives. We will focus on cases from Latin America and Québec, comparing perspectives developed in the North and the South, so as to highlight the similitudes and differences between them and to discuss the lessons and challenges they provide to contribute to the research agenda on this subject.
Cities and urban areas are conceived as critical spaces for global sustainability and social innovation promotion (Wolfram; Frantzeskaki, 2016). Expanding knowledge about cities, their problems, challenges and opportunities become crucial to understand living conditions in the present and projecting possible futures. These concerns are recognized by United Nations Agenda 2030 whose objective 11 specifically focuses on the urban dimension: make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
The recent literature shows an increasing interest, in terms of studies and experiences, in linking social innovation and cities. Diversity of urban ecosystems’ services (McPhearson et al, 2015); evolutionary resilience (Mehmood, 2016); smart cities (Casltelnovo et al, 2016); design thinking and new technologies applied to solve social problems (Gutierrez et al, 2016; Vechakul; Shrimali & Shandu, 2015); networked and collaborative governance (Tosun & Schoenefeld, 2017) and use of digital platforms (Gutierrez et al, 2016) are some of the main topics in the actual scientific debate that shows the importance of the multiples social innovations experimentations to co-create more sustainable cities.
Despite this consensus, as observed by Calzada & Cobo (2015), Castelnovo, Misuraka & Savoldelli (2016) and Kaika (2017) the narrative of “smart cities” remains technologically determined and path dependent on old methodological tools, techno-managerial solutions and normative frameworks. In fact, the majority of the studies focuses on the structural configuration of the urban systems or urban sectors (in terms of technology, governance and digital connections). Only few of them try to understand the interactions between the actors that forms the Social Innovations Ecosystems (SIEs), their particularities and their real impact on the territory.
This is the main objective of this roundtable as we posit that Social Innovations Ecosystems (SIEs) are sources of collective intelligence and creativity that contribute to solve urban problems, to create new paths of development and to reinforce democracy in cities. SIEs are understood as networks formed by the interactions between multiple actors, institutions and artifacts from different sectors and oriented towards solving problematic situations in the public arenas of a city (Andion, Alperstedt & Graeff, 2019).
More specifically, this proposal aims to address the topic by establishing a dialogue between northern and southern conceptions of social innovation, by linking different experiences of mapping social innovation ecosystems in both the North and the South, and finally, by bringing together different actors and mobilizing different types of knowledge and knowledge production methods. This, in hope of addressing salient issues that calls on the social innovation community and Social Innovations Ecosystems.”

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