Between 21 and 23 September, 16 international early career researchers (PhD candidates and Postdocs) and 8 senior social innovation scholars gathered at the Social Research Centre of TU Dortmund University to discuss the importance of social innovation policy. The Eu-SPRI Early Career Conference (ECC) was organized by the Social Research Centre, in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (Fraunhofer ISI). A plurality of current issues was broad to the fore, questioning, for instance the need for social innovation ecosystems and regional or local innovation policy, as well as their current state of affairs in Europe and beyond.
Although social innovations need not necessarily be ‘good’, expectations on their role to combat 21st century challenges are quite high, creating a demand for targeted policy making. However, as argued by several participants, effective policy-making for social innovations requires theoretical clarity of the concept and a better understanding of the dynamics of diffusion of social innovations. Impact (measurement) is a major challenge in this regard, as the impact of social innovations is difficult to capture, but crucial for policy making.
Social innovation can be seen as a boundary concept that brings together different fields of research. One particular challenge identified in the ECC is the relationship between social innovations and technological, digital and sustainable innovations and how these interconnections need to be addressed. Also the role of universities as one actor with potential to further social innovations was touched upon. However, social innovation is not merely an academic endeavour, it is above all a social phenomenon that not only needs to be studied, but that also needs space for practical application. We were therefore happy to welcome Mike Asquith of the European Environment Agency to shed his light on the role of social innovation in sustainability transitions. To learn more about the importance of social innovation within the city of Dortmund, participants were invited by the Social Innovation Center Dortmund to see how social innovation is lived in the city and to learn how social innovation played a role in Dortmund’s winning bid for the iCapital Award in 2021 with the slogan ‘Innovation Next Door.’
We look back at a successful and interesting Early Career Conference with lots of learning opportunities and network building with young scholars eager to further our knowledge on social innovations. We thank all presenters, seniors and juniors alike, for their engagement with the conference and look forward to continuing the discussions started in Dortmund.
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Location & approach
Exit 13 (Kreuz Dortmund Nord-Ost), direction Derne/Schwerte (B236), 1st exit direction Dortmund-Eving, next traffic lights turn right (Kemminghauser Str.), after 2.7km turn left (Evinger Str./B 54), after 1.1km traffic lights turn left (Deutsche Straße), after 500m on the left is the Evinger Platz.
From the Bundesstraße 1 (extension A40 or A44) to the intersection B1/B236 direction Lünen, 3rd exit direction Dortmund-Eving.
Exit Dortmund Hafen, turn left until the intersection Münsterstraße (B54), direction Eving, after about three kilometers turn into Deutsche Straße.
You can download an enlarged general map here
From Dortmund Airport, it takes just about 20 minutes to get to Dortmund Central Station by AirportExpress and from there to the university by subway (U-Bahn) 41. The stop is "Zeche Minister Stein". A wider range of international flight connections is offered by Düsseldorf Airport, about 60 kilometers away, which can be reached directly by S-Bahn from the university station. From there, you can get directly to Dortmund Central Station.