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May 12, 2015

SEiSMiC Takes Up New Urban Governance

SEiSMiC Takes Up New Urban Governance

This spring, SEiSMiC’s activities went from preliminary tremors to a roaring temblor. After a year’s work building social innovation networks (“NaNets”) in the 10 project countries, year two activated them in actual project work. During the coming two years, the networks will facilitate dialogue and exchange as well as support selected projects both in country and across borders. It will be an experiment in how multidisciplinary groups in different national contexts can cooperate for the good of society.

In April, SEiSMiC participants gathered in Brussels for the first of three international forums to trade tips and tricks, to explore possibilities of international cooperation and to share recommendations with the European Commission on how to create urban ecosystems that nourish rather than hinder social innovation.

The theme of the event was “New Urban Governance”, defined as a more decentralised, participatory form of civic organisation in which people have greater rights, as well as responsibility, for community maintenance.

There are signs that this is the future. In bellwether countries such as Great Britain and the Netherlands, participatory approaches are being encouraged from two sides: community groups want greater influence and power and governments want to unload social welfare burdens they can no longer afford. This issue of What’s Shaking addresses Dutch developments here.

Among the priority issues in new urban governance is gender equality. SEiSMiC has taken this up in its recently released Gender Action Plan (GAP), which, among other things, gives practical advice to project participants in how to ensure a gender-balanced approach in social innovation initiatives. All of SEiSMiC’s national networks will consider the GAP’s recommendations, and a few have made gender issues a top network priority – including the NaNet in Hungary.

The GAP and periodic SEiSMiC forums are two project tools to maintain coherence in the activities of the 10 NaNets. A third tool is SEiSMiC’s Policy Watch reports, which monitor social innovation trends at local, national and EU levels in order to keep the project up to date and as relevant as possible. Policy Watch #1 came out this spring, detailing, among other things, emerging opportunities and challenges related to the sharing economy and the evolving definition of “livable cities”.

As a project funded by the European Commission, SEiSMiC will contribute added value at the European level. Along with its international networking opportunities, SEiSMiC will also gather recommendations from social innovators on what can be done at the EU level to foster social innovation. These will inform the Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA), which will guide research funding priorities over the next five years. The development of the SRIA, due out in September, is updated here.

SEiSMiC’s activities will rumble on throughout the summer and fall — and take a brief stop for reflection at the Second International Forum, 9-10 November in Brussels. The theme will be New Public Space. Watch the Events Calendar for updates.