R.U.S.Z. – Forms of Empowerment in a Social Innovation Initiative
Social innovations differ from commercial service innovations attempt to assign new roles and relationships (e.g. between the citizens and the state) to individuals or groups in need, they develop assets and capabilities and/or the more efficient and environmentally sustainable use of existing assets and resources (cf. Chiappero & Von Jacobi, 2015; Science Communication Unit, 2014; Windrum, Schartinger, Rubalcaba, Gallouj, & Toivonen, 2016). The notion of empowerment has gained interest in several disciplines. As a general concept, it is characterized by following a strength-oriented perception in contrast to a deficit-oriented perception. In social work, empowerment presumes active, collaborative roles for client–partners, instead of viewing clients as weak, passive and ineffectual (DuBois & Krogsrud Miley, 2005).
R.U.S.Z. (acronym for Repair and Service Centre) is a social enterprise first and foremost aiming at saving of resources and preventing waste from electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) (ecological goals). R.U.S.Z. provides independent and reliable repair services for electronic household products of all sizes, ranging from radios to washing machines. R.U.S.Z. also conforms to social goals in that it creates jobs for disadvantaged persons. Furthermore, R.U.S.Z. operates on the market and wants to ensure financial stability (not for profit), create places of work and contribute to regional added economic goals (R.U.S.Z. GmbH, 2016). R.U.S.Z. was incentivised by a win-win situation of re-integrating people into the regular job market who have difficult employment histories and at the same time pro-moting the social practice of having devices repaired instead of thrown away and added to the amount of waste.
In the R.U.S.Z. case, empowerment takes several forms:
Empower citizens (demand): One crucial insight was that people/households are actually unwilling to dispose of goods because of minor damages. Culture and values of preserving nature, avoiding waste and prolonging the use of goods exist, but shrivel without the necessary supply of services. So there is actually latent demand for repair services in case of just a broken switch or similar problems, but without the existence of repair services and moreover, without the information of the existence of repair services, appliances are passively stored in people’s homes because they do not have the skills to repair themselves and not the knowledge about easy options of repair. In the case of R.U.S.Z., media contributions about repair services immediately rose awareness and demand, before this latent, became apparent.
Empower citizens (competences): Repair cafes have diffused from the Netherlands through Belgium, France and Germany to Austria. The repair and service center R.U.S.Z. offers repair cafes every Thursday, in order to give the opportunity to repair devices for which it would not be economical to offer repair services. Guests can fix toasters, blenders, irons, hairdryers, coffee filter machines, lamps and other electrical devices that can be carried in one hand. R.U.S.Z. offers a complementary infrastructure, like tools, and – coffee and pastries. Technically experienced personnel with different expertise is always present (Vienna Municipality, 2016).
The most important feature of the repair cafe is to empower citizens for self repair (Interview E).
Empower small repair firms (supply): A further insight was that craftsmen exist to carry out repair services, however they are often small businesses in backyards, not visible to the public. “These craftsmen are often ingenious technicians, but quite bad at two things: self-marketing and account staff.” (Wien Energie-Magazin für Unternehmen, 2014). Repair networks and a repair hotline helped to solve at least the self-marketing problem and, again, helped to engage otherwise passive resources – this time on the supply side, in making skills and competences available for the public.
Reduce asymmetric information: Furthermore R.U.S.Z. is engaged in the discourse on planned obsolescence. This is based on competences of R.U.S.Z.: Repair service technicians are also the most likely to be able to detect (purposefully) in-built technical weaknesses.
“Purposeful obsolescence exists whenever manufacturers produce goods with a shorter physical life than the industry is capable of producing under existing technological and cost conditions; or whenever manufacturers or sellers induce the public to replace goods which still retain substantial physical usefulness.” (Gregory 1947, cited in Hübner (2013). For Slade (2006) planned obsolescence is defined an “assortment of techniques used to artificially limit the durability of a manufactured good in order to stimulate repetitive consumption” (Anderson, 2007).
Conceptually, a basic ingredient to planned obsolescence is asymmetric information (Akerlof, 1970). At first, only manufacturers know about differences in quality of features unobservable to the buyers of goods. In informing a wider public about quality differences that are not easily observed by lay people, this is a crucial function of empowerment and enables consumers to make more informed decisions. A basic ingredient for more information and hence making consumers take the responsibility on the basis of informed decisions are labels. The eco-design label for durable and easy to repair new electrical appliances (ON Rule ONR 192102) shall distinguish appliances in making otherwise hidden differences in quality (durability) apparent.
Interview E, Interview with Sepp Eisenriegler, May 25th, 2016, at R.U.S.Z., Lützowgasse 12-14, 1140 Vienna
Akerlof, G. A. 1970. The Market for Lemons: Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 84(3): 488–500.
Anderson, B. 2007. Review: Made To Break: Technology and Obsolescence in America by Giles Slade, Electronic Green Journal, Vol. 1. http://escholarship.org/uc/item/3617c54k.
Chiappero, E., & Von Jacobi, N. 2015. How can Sen’s ‘Capabilities Approach’ contribute to understanding the role of social innovations for the marginalised? http://www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/ideas-impact/cressi/cressi-publications.
DuBois, B. L., & Krogsrud Miley, K. 2005. Social work: An empowering profession. Boston, MA, http://www.ablongman.com: Allyn & Bacon.
Hübner, R. 2013. Was ist geplante Obsoleszenz? Historische Entwicklung und Typologisierungen von Vance Packard bis zur Gegenwart. In Arbeiterkammer Wien (Ed.), Fachtagung. Wien.
R.U.S.Z. GmbH. 2016. R.U.S.Z. Kompetenzzentrum. http://rusz.at/kompetenz-zentrum/, lasst accessed July 6th, 2016.
Science Communication Unit. 2014. Science for Environment Policy In-depth Report: Social Innovation and the Environment. http://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/research/newsalert/pdf/IR10_en.pdf , last accessed 1.11.15.
Slade, G. 2006. Made To Break: Technology and Obsolescence in America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Vienna Municipality. 2016. Reparaturcafe. https://www.wien.gv.at/umwelt-klimaschutz/reparaturcafe.html, last accessed July 13th, 2016.
Wien Energie-Magazin für Unternehmen. 2014. Der Reparier-Pionier. Wien Energie-Magazin für Unternehmen 10.
Windrum, P., Schartinger, D., Rubalcaba, L., Gallouj, F., & Toivonen, M. 2016. The Co-Creation of Multi-Agent Social Innovations: A Bridge Between Service and Social Innovation Research. European Journal of Innovation Management, accepted to be published.
Trends in Mobility and Transport – Share and Ride
Considering the developments and growth in urban areas around the world for the past decades, a change in mobility demands and patters is noticeable. For instance, lifestyles become more distinct and flexible, metropolitan areas merge in a way often lacking a dominant city-centre, cities predominantly stay active day and night, work and life patterns are more desynchronized (Finn, 2012). Consequently, the general quest for flexible transport options is growing and alongside the usage of the private vehicle (Wright & Curtis, 2005). In addition, the occupancy rates of private vehicles are declining, which means, that there are more cars with predominantly only a driver inside (Agatz et al., 2012). All these effects cause high CO2 emissions, congestions, air and noise pollution, which again result in lower life-quality in the urban areas around the globe (Butzin et al., 2015).
To tackle those challenges, strategies for sustainable urban mobility are being developed by governments around the world (UN, 2013). However, potential for reduction of the negative effects of transport is also seen in implementing new ways of mobility behaviour, which opens space for social innovation (Butzin et al., 2015).
‘Shared mobility’ is a possible direct answer to the present socio-economic developments by presenting a shift from owning means of transport to accessing means of transport. The term ‘shared mobility’ stands for “the shared use of a vehicle, bicycle, or other low-speed mode that enables users to have short-term access to transportation modes on an “as-needed” basis” (Shaheen et al., 2015: 4).
Throughout the SI-Drive project’s mapping phase five globally spread shared mobility fields were identified, where social innovation projects are fast emerging:
Car-sharing: Car-sharing means sharing the usage and the costs for a vehicle. Car-sharing initiatives are usually organised as business-to-consumer (B2C) models. In such a way, a certain company owns a vehicle fleet offering it the customers for usage. The service can be organised in manifold ways: as a round-trip, including the same pick-up and return location; station-based service, offering multiple pre-established locations for picking-up and returning the vehicles; and flexible service, offering the customer the possibility to leave the car anywhere. In addition to the above-named, there are peer-to-peer (P2P) car-sharing schemes, used by private owners, who offer their own vehicle for share. Usually these are community based schemes e.g. appointed between neighbours, however personal involvement of the users is not pre-required.
Ride sharing: Ride sharing (also known as carpooling) stands for sharing a trip and the related costs. This type of shared mobility relies on peer-to-peer interaction for common traveling. In addition to the unformal practices of this type as, for example, ‘hitchhiking’, today, ride sharing arranged with the help of a platform (agency) gains popularity. Prearranged trips between strangers on long or short distance can be found in almost every European country and North America. Through the technological development, real time ride matching is also becoming increasingly popular, operating by platforms able to connect people in a very short notice.
Bicycle sharing: In a very similar way, bicycle sharing is a service for sharing or renting a bicycle for a short time (from some minutes to several hours). The success of bicycle sharing depends on the location of the bicycle stations, where users can pick-up and/or return the bike. Usually, bike sharing is funded/implemented by public authorities or private investors or a combination of both. It is a complementary service to public transport by allowing people to get faster from one point to another, solving the problem of the often unconnected “last mile” transportation.
Parking spot sharing: Parking spot sharing aims at offering solutions for efficient motor vehicle parking, in terms of time and effort spend in searching the nearest parking spaces. Owners of the parking spaces to share can be citizens (P2P) or organizations such as companies or further authorities, which by utilizing technological solutions (applications, sensors etc.) are making the free spaces available to others.
Mobility applications: In the past years, applications for mobile devices occur in a bright scale, allowing users to organise, coordinate and manage their short and long distance travel. These services allow private users by internet connection to manage their travel, providing information for all available means of transport and the current traffic situation. This kind of applications are either directly connected to the public transport providers or rely on live feedback from travellers, or combine both types of features.
In addition to those five shared mobility practices identified by SI-Drive, others, specific to a certain area, can be found in the literature (shuttles, shared taxi, on-demand transport options etc.) (cf. Shaheen et al., 2015). All these services are characterised by flexibility, reliability, affordability and the possibility to connect users in near real-time. They are highly dependent on new technologies as smartphones, GPS and Internet, which allows them to be dynamic. Their spread and growth in the past years underlines the strong technological dimension of social innovation in the policy field of mobility and transport.
Agatz, N., Erera, A., Savelsbergh, M. and Wang, X. (2012): Optimization for Dynamic Ride-sharing: A Review. European Journal of Operational Research, Vol. 223, pp. 295-303.
Butzin, A., Rabadjieva, M. and Lindt, M. (2015): Social Innovation in Transport and Mobility. State of the Art Summary. SI-DRIVE policy field reports.
Finn, B. (2012): Towards Large-scale Flexible Transport Services: A Practical Perspective From the Domain of Paratransit. Research in Transportation Business & Management, Vol. 3, pp. 39-49.
Shaheen, S., Chan, N., Bansal, A. and Cohen, A. (2015): Shared Mobility: Definitions, Industry Developments, and Early Understanding. TSRC, UC Berkeley.
United Nations (2013): Planning and Designing for Sustainable Urban Mobility. Global Report on Human Settlements. http://unhabitat.org/planning-and-design-for-sustainable-urban-mobility-global-report-on-human-settlements-2013/ (last accessed 25.06.2014).
Wright, C. and Curtis, B. (2005): Reshaping the Motor Car. Transport Policy, Vol. 12, pp. 11-22.
Inclusive Mobility – a Global Challenge with Many Local Answers
A major challenge in the field of mobility and transport is ensuring mobility of all in order to give access to places, goods and services. The objective is achieving inclusive mobility and transport systems that do not exclude certain social groups. Nevertheless, exclusion has multiple sides and there is hardly a “one size fits all” solution to overcome it. Church and Frost (1999, cited from Gaffron et al. 2001, p. 8f.) concretise transport related social exclusion in several, often intertwined categories. These are “physical exclusion” meaning different barriers preventing people from accessing services. “Geographical, space or distance” exclusion applying to peripheral territories with poor transport connections or long walking and driving pathways, leading to exclusion from facilities for shopping, healthcare, leisure activities or education. “Economic exclusion” occurring due to high transport costs; and “fear-based exclusion” referring to feeling unsafe by using public transport options (especially from women, elderly and children).
One approach for achieving inclusive mobility systems is applying the 4A-categories included also in the UN overview of global mobility challenges: mobility and transport have to be Available, Accessible, Affordable, and Acceptable for all (see UN 2013). These overarching categories, however, are not jet fully established neither in the developed nor in the developing countries around the world. Depending on the social context exclusion is faced everywhere in one form or another and is being also conquered differently. Ensuring safe, affordable transportation of people with reduced mobility, gender sensitive transport options or safe roads to school for children are just a few of the examples found during the SI-Drive mapping phase. In the following sections four exemplifying cases for ensuring inclusive mobility, depending on the contextual needs, are presented as an example for the diversity of solutions:
Heimwegtelefon, Germany – a phone line for people walking home at night. “Heimwegtelefon” is a phone service developed from two women in Berlin. The idea was born from the experience of being in a vulnerable position by walking home alone at night. Through a phone call people from all over Germany can connect to a volunteer, share their position and route and in this way feel safer and not alone. The service empowers callers to be more independent by walking even in the late hours of the night.
She-Taxi, India – a taxi service for women exclusively. She-Taxi is reserved only for women both as drivers and as passengers. In a strong patriarchal society as India, where women are often being discriminated as workers, threatened, assaulted and even hurt by using the public transport system She-Taxi offers on a one hand a safe transportation option and on the other a possibility for women to become entrepreneurs. The project aims at empowering women to be more independent and at ensuring gender equality.
Moosdorf Macht Mobil, Austria – community transport service. In the rural area of Moosdorf, Upper Austria, there is a serious lack of public transport connections to the bigger cities, to hospitals and schools, which makes the inhabitants dependant on their private cars. For children or elderly there is no possibility to travel on their own. As a response to this strong demand the mayor, together with group of inhabitants, developed a plan for community transport service with an electrical vehicle. The service is entirely operated and led by volunteers, members of the community and is organised as a non-for-profit associations of community members. With joint efforts, the community found a way and public funding to establish their own transport option.
Child in a Chair in a Day, UK – improving the process of getting a wheelchair for children. The process of getting the right wheelchair in the United Kingdom is long and heavy and requires multiple visits to the facilities until the right piece of equipment is finally given to the patient. The charitable organisation Wizz-Kidz has set the goal of improving that process. They developed a project aiming at providing the required equipment for children in only one visit to the medical facility. They managed to achieve that in 90% of the cases in the past year. The projects’ success is based on improved delivery-chain, where physicians, patients and equipment companies are working close together even before meeting in person. Now the organisation is working on implementing the same system for adults.
The four cases show solutions possible, in order to achieve the goal of inclusive mobility for all. Even though the provided solutions are still complementary and don’t change the system altogether, they empower vulnerable groups to participate more broadly (e.g. also at night) in the mobility system. One of the main challenges and future options of these kind of initiatives is to cooperate with established mobility and transport actors in order to achieve scaling and new/increased target groups, to strengthen the link to new technologies that are helpful in both implementing and scaling the solution and to develop sustainable business models.
Gaffron, P., Hine, J. and Mitchell, F. (2001): The role of transport on social exclusion in urban Scotland. Literature Review. Transport Research Unit. Napier University.
United Nations (2013): Planning and Designing for Sustainable Urban Mobility. Global Report on Human Settlements. Retrieved from http://unhabitat.org/planning-and-design-for-sustainable-urban-mobility-global-report-on-human-settlements-2013/ (last accessed 25.06.2014).
Media as a success factor in social innovation initiatives
Generally in social innovation initiatives, media and social networks may be useful to gain attention and attract people as suppliers, as well as customers. Hence, media may become an extremely important partner in social innovation initiatives. In social innovation initiatives within the SI DRIVE policy field of environment and climate change, relations to media often worked to boost success. Media contributions about social innovation initiatives may raise awareness and demand that was latent before becomes then apparent and materializes. In Austria, for RUSZ, media are a very relevant partner, newspapers as well as talk shows. Presence in Austrian media results in a higher number of donated appliances. One of Austrians daily newspaper with a very wide reach published 5 contributions in 2012/13, since then around 1200 washing machines are donated to RUSZ annually.
For the Bulgarian system of separate collection of hazardous waste, media are an extremely important partner as well. The accompanying information campaign for promotion of the system for the collection and recycling of hazardous waste is well considered and carried out consistently. It is focused on the promotion in various TV programmes; reportages in news and specialised programmes of all major TV channels; publications in mass media; articles in online information agencies and editions;
Media contacts also played an extremely important role in the North Atlantic Salmon Fund (NASF), Myrorna and Eat me who all strategically relate to media to communicate their purposes.
Policy workshop Employment – some findings
In February 2017, the ‘policy workshop’ for the work package Employment was held in Leiden, Netherlands, which was attended by 24 internal and external, international, participants. As input for the workshop the ‘case study report’ on examples of social innovation of employment was used (see: https://lnkd.in/gpUny7C). This report identified three practice fields, i.e. clustered social innovation initiatives, namely ‘Youth unemployment and other vulnerable groups’, ‘social entrepreneurship and self-creating opportunities’ and ’workplace innovation and working conditions’. Painted with broad brush strokes, the overall picture reflected still a major role for policymakers and ‘traditional’ institutions to support the labour market position of ‘vulnerable groups’. It was pointed out that both ‘social entrepreneurship’ and ‘workplace innovation’, as rather new practices, should less concentrate on economic targets: their public value and educational role is important to empower labour market participants. To better apply social innovation as a driver for social change education was seen as a factor that should be stressed more than has been done until now. Agents should take notice how social innovation can help solve employment issues. In terms of finance and budgets, a new idea put forward is to not just subsidise social innovation, but reward social innovation initiatives for their results and outputs. Moreover, it was suggested to further standardise or certificate really good practices in order to make social innovation better measurable. These findings will serve as inputs for the International Round Table of Policies (covering all seven SI-Drive’s policy domains), scheduled for June 2017 in Brussels.
SOCIAL INNOVATION IN EMPLOYMENT: A CASE IN A TURBULENT MEDIA LANDSCAPE
Since almost two decades all media companies are seeking for a new business model as an answer to the digitalization and changing habits in news consumption. The media sector in general is reorganizing. Many takeovers are still taking place. For instance in the first months of 2017 the possible takeover of the Telegraaf Media Groep by either an investor in the entertainment sector or by the Mediahuis, a Belgian newspaper publisher is frontline news in the Netherlands.
The Media Groep Limburg (MGL) was formed in 2001, employing 805 persons at that moment. Now – spring 2017 – MGL has 275 employees and publishes a regional newspaper, runs a website for enterprises and a website for job vacancies in the region. MGL is now part of the Belgian publisher Mediahuis (the same company that tries to acquire the Telegraaf Media Groep at the moment). MGL had four different owners since 2001. The first two followed a cost cutting strategy and fired hundreds of employees. The Works Council and the local management opposed to that strategy and propagated a quality and innovation strategy that requires investments. At last in 2014 – with the support of local authorities – they enforced a takeover by a publisher who was willing to invest in newspaper publishing as is the current owner, the previous mentioned Mediahuis.
In the period 2006 – 2014, the local management had already started a new internal policy, alarmed as they were by the continuing layoffs and declining revenues.
First, the jobs in Marketing and Sales were enlarged, enriched, empowered and upscaled. In short the jobs changed from selling subscriptions or advertisements to account management.
Second, the work of the journalists was changed as well. Now the journalists work in theme groups, where they formerly were organized in district groups. They no longer write short messages about local news items. After all, the market for short and quick messages (news items) has largely been taken over by social media. The journalists are now doing research and specializing on a theme that is of importance in the region and writing in-depth articles. This internal strategy of the local management got support of a new CEO who took office in June 2013. This new CEO also stimulated the collecting and developing of ideas of the employees for new business. One can speak of: employee driven innovation.
Two fruitful ideas that were developed by multidisciplinary teams of employees were:
1. An online news providing service (‘1Limburg’) together with the local broadcasting company as partner. 1Limburg is very successful in terms of people visiting this website and it plays a role in the regional communication networks. However even after a few years this initiative still demands financial support. Therefor MGL left this joint venture in the beginning of 2017.
2. The creating of a ‘Media Valley’, an ecosystem, where new media initiatives and startups can develop. The media valley as a field for experimentation is a success and can be continued thanks to the financial support of the University College, a city Council and MGL.
This was a period where organisational performance and good quality of work went hand in hand more or less. But the tide has changed. Due to the reorganization of the media landscape in Western Europe large scale acquisition strategies prevail in the last years. Mediahuis focuses at finding ways to use the possibilities of digitalization and publishing newspapers. The Works Council of MGL supports this strategy because at least Mediahuis is willing to invest in new opportunities for the newspaper and high quality journalism. For the same reason the journalists of the Telegraaf Media Groep recently showed a strong preference for joining the Mediahuis.
This case shows that a commercial organisation can profit of workplace innovation. Indeed, there still exists a relatively successful and high quality regional newspaper in Limburg now, employing 275 people. At the same time, the case also shows that economic goals can win (temporarily) over social goals. The conclusion can be that social innovative ways to reorganize a business is brittle when a profit company feels the pressure of the market to focus on economic goals, not taking the time to search if and how workplace innovation might improve the chances to survive in that situation.
Fietje Vaas – TNO, Netherlands
See also the in-depth case study report: SOCIAL INNOVATION IN EMPLOYMENT: CASE STUDY RESULTS
Ten initial policy implications from the poverty and sustainable development policy field
Many potentially relevant policy implications of the work of this SI-DRIVE policy field have arisen from recent workshops and discussions amongst partners.
1. First, there are different types of policy needs for different needs, contexts, scales and actors related to for example:
• Project stage: For example: 1) immediate humanitarian, crisis or relief (including disaster response); 2) addressing basic needs like social inclusion and employment; 3) addressing more longer term needs like education and health, etc. (Relate to the 3 BEPA levels?)
• Enabling, permissive policy on the one hand, compared to active, interventionist policy on the other. For example, civil society organisations (CSOs) often only need an enabling policy environment in the first stage, such as not setting up barriers or roadblocks like legal constraints barring CSOs from delivering services (providing they are good quality and not exploitative). But in the second stage if they wish to scale, an active policy approach attempts to directly support social innovation through, for example, funding, setting up support structures and networks, the public sector getting actively involved as partners, directly addressing the lack of suitable people, knowledge, finance, etc.
2) Related to this, the development trajectory of a typical social innovation initiative looks something like this:
i) start with envisioning and describing desired outcomes, either derived directly from a perceived/experienced societal need or challenge, or derived directly from existing capacities and desires about beneficiary wishes
ii) use social innovation to develop beneficiary agency to achieve the outcomes in 1)
iii) do this within the existing structural context
iv) then attempt to change the structure and further develop agency to maximise the outcomes both for the initiative itself as well as for other (similar) initiatives.
3) There is a need for joined-up policy given that poverty consists typically of multi-deprivation requiring multi-disciplinary solutions, i.e. all-round approaches addressing the whole human being with dignity and respect, e.g. using the nexus approach which recognises policy links, synergies and trade-offs.
4) There is a need for policies that do not dictate the process of social innovation, but instead aim at specific outcomes/impacts and open up for process innovation to find the most appropriate solutions (in the specific context, etc.), as long as these processes remain ethical, transparent, not exploitative, not criminal, etc.
5) Recognise and support the special role of CSOs as ‘trusted third parties’ which can link others actors across silos and sectors. This typically seems to work well given that CSOs are seen as not having their own commercial or political interests and are thus better able to be neutral mediators.
6) Align social innovation policy directly to welfare policies as well as polices for social protection, social impact investment and the currently developing re-vamp of the ‘Social Europe’ strategy.
7) Encourage polices, support systems, etc., that directly incorporate ethnographic and anthropological approaches into social innovation for poverty reduction and sustainable development, including the power of story-telling and appreciative enquiry.
8) Policies at the local, municipality and city levels often have most impact, as they are close to the beneficiaries and know the actual contextual situation.
9) Monitoring and evaluation for social innovation itself need innovation. For example, in addition to existing logic methods, social value impact assessment, etc., new methods are required by policy makers (as well as social innovators) such as Theory of Change, appreciative enquiry, outcome harvesting, key lines of enquiry, etc., all of which are used successful by the development community.
10) Specific SI policies and programmes should be developed by the United Nations, the World Bank, World Economic Forum, the OECD, International Monetary Foundation and other relevant international organisations (e.g. at regional level like the African Union, African Development Bank, etc., etc.). These international organisations often use social innovation methods and approaches but rarely use this term and are thereby potentially missing the potential synergies with, and additional insights of, the global social innovation community.
The ultimate goal – Zero-fication of mobility
Today’s mobility and transport system encounters two major challenges, as mentioned in the previous posts:
1. Overcoming high CO2 emission, air pollution, congestion, and noise levels and
2. Ensuring mobility of all groups of society in order to give access to places, goods and services.
Respectively, the future goals are set in order to achieve sustainable and inclusive mobility and transport systems.
However, as an exercise of thought we go beyond the two concrete goals and ask how future mobility could look like when following the zero-fication vision. In the vision, mobility is not a problem any more in any way, not for the environment, not for the transport of different target groups, not for urban planning and social life of the communities. In a way this thought combines the two goals in one overarching, ultimate goal.
Zero-fication means zero emissions; zero air and noise pollution; zero congestion; zero car-centred urban planning; zero fatalities; zero exclusion; zero barriers… and 100% mobility as a service for high quality of life.
The idea, as utopian as it sounds helps to direct focus on questions what we want to achieve and what needs to be done to actually make it happen? Furthermore, where is the place of social innovation on the way to zero-fication, which actors should take responsibility and how?
These questions were asked on a workshop with practitioners as part of the SI-Drive framework and some of the conclusions made are: zero-mobility does sound utopian; however zero-fication of mobility is already happening, especially under the view of social innovations. The practices analysed in the SI-Drive policy field of mobility and transport illustrate how social innovation contributes to this goal.
Shared mobility: all practices under this group pretty much include zero-fication of mobility, even though it is not their first incentive. Car-sharing, ride sharing, bike sharing, parking spot sharing, sharing real time traffic information etc. all have one thing in common – the inclusion of other participants in the mobility system into one’s personal mobility plans. Instead of riding alone people take others with them; instead of leaving the car or personal parking spot unused for 90% of the time, people leave it for others to use it, etc. This behaviour has the potential to combine us all in one integrative mobility system; it can decrease negative effects of mobility, and respectively contribute to zero-fication of mobility as a problem.
Mobility of vulnerable groups: a lot of social innovation address the concrete demand of a certain target group being vulnerable or completely excluded from the existing transport system. Walking children to school, providing services for elderly and people with disabilities or in some cases providing safe mobility options for women, LGBT people or other social groups, who are currently unsafe using the transport system available in their specific context are another group of practices. The practices are dispersed all over the world and contributing to eliminate exclusion, minimizing the barriers for participation into life activities. A lot of those practices are also constructed to be environmentally friendly from the beginning, which makes them even more contributing to eliminating mobility as a problem.
Urban planning: a third group of practices is presented by examples as car-free housing, managing multimodality or fostering alternative transport modes, where the main idea is to escape from the established car-centred way of life. Building whole communities where no cars are aloud, providing services for better combining existing transport modes or encouraging the usage of car-alternatives are all practices meaning to make the transport system a multimodal system of services instead of car-dominated self-purpose.
The examples mapped in the SI-Drive project belong to these (and some other) groups of practices. They are often implemented by different actors coming from public, private or civil society sectors, often working together to create a working solution. They are all “living” examples of initiatives aiming at changing the mobility and transport system to be more sustainable and/or inclusive. Together they represent a snapshot of a future of what we can achieve if we start changing our behaviour today, namely – zero-fication of mobility, a mobility and transport that is not a problem any more in any way.
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