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Social innovation, glocalisation, placemaking, a new paradigm to tackle social change?

An inspiring and challenging piece wrote by Inese Vaivare – Director of LAPAS (Latvia), an IFP Member

Just asking
“In November 2017 I attended IFP’s Leadership Development Program. With colleagues, we discussed a lot about the role of the national platforms, social change, country contexts and our own journeys. Still I have more questions than answers — therefore – just asking. Is there a life beyond SDG’s? Are we flexible enough? How societal problems can be solved? What is the role of the national platforms?

As an IFP member, Inese, Director of LAPAS share with us her ideas to cope with social change as a National Platform, going from the use of technology to advocacy campaigns through fluid process of societal transformation and mutual learning, find below some questions that every CSO should address in their own organization to better define their role & impact.

Is there a life beyond SDGs?
For the last years SDGs have become the new “religion” of the NGO sector – everybody is looking for the new partnerships within SDGs, link their actions to the goals or targets, contribute to the indicators. I feel we start to forget that this is the agenda shaped by the governments mainly and that within the process many issues were left behind. As NGOs, we should not become “little governments” and institutionalize our work but be flexible enough to serve the needs of the society.

Are we flexible enough?
Technologies have been reshaping this world in many patterns. Also, one of the main functions of the national platforms – Advocacy. People can mobilize themselves around certain problem, crowdsource the resources, solve it and leave the group. They do not need anymore hierarchical structures as NGOs, their platforms to reach out to governments or mobilize. I believe that this ad-hoc type of civil participation will become more common with the wider spread of technologies. As NGO platforms, we should be ready to change and support not only our formal membership but the very idea of solving the problems in the society.

How societal problems can be solved?
As a frequent traveler, I am used to spend time in airports’ book stores. In one of these escapes from the busy reality I found a book “Social Physics – how social networks can make us smarter” by Alex Pentland. The book explains how ideas flow and how they are transformed in behaviours in organizations, cities and societies. This gave me a fresh look that also the role of the national platforms could be reviewed within this context.

What is the role of the National Platforms?
If national platforms are the channels that provoke and promote the development than our role can go much more beyond being “little governments” and traditional capacity builders for our members. I strongly believe that we can be brave enough to challenge our members by showing that there is also a life beyond the SDGs. We can be flexible enough to open our membership and support to the interest groups who struggle to solve the problems. We have a duty to overstep donor driven agenda to institutionalize every movement of civil society killing its beauty of fluidity.

Fluid national platform – only answer I have
At first, I think we have to define that our platforms are not the end – instead they are the part of the process – fluid process of the societal transformation. This brings us the great a duty to uncover what functions could be the rapids in our river of change – making flow maybe more challenging but also faster.

I have few to propose:
-social learning – learning from others’ behaviours. We have a lot of learning activities in our field but usually they are more theoretical and subjectively presented. New technologies allow (or will allow in a very near future) us to be part of the any place in this world, be part of others’ behaviour and make our own judgements about it, have our own learning experiences;
-glocalisation – in our work in LAPAS we have observed that only very focused localisation of issues works as a learning context – it can be geographical, professional, any kind. We even refuse to participate in global copy-paste campaigns as it is just a waste of the resources. Challenging global to local is very important role of the national platform;
-placemaking – I am amazed by the work of Janis Kinasts who combines environment, space and time with the place and co-creates wonderful examples of time-spaces for different social practices (one of them DarbaVieta Platforms also can serve as a safe physical space for being creative, learning and making mistakes.

Safe place for social innovations
Process of the social innovations (feel free to google any in-depth material yourself) is very similar to the first answers that come to my questions. When we were reviewing LAPAS strategy, it become natural to re-define our national platform more the ideas’ community. Putting a mutual trust in each other and better world, braveness to experiment and challenge ourselves and others – this is what unites us together.

I have a feeling that national platform as a safe physical and virtual space for the social innovations is an answer to my questions. There is no simple answer – how as it has to be built in your own environment, space and time. It is also not the straight answer as some aspects of social innovations still are challenging in the business sector and will be also for us – like scaling up the innovations. On the other hand – innovations are not to copying the experiences of others – maybe social change – scaling up starts and ends with a person him/herself? Just asking…