Createdestruct (IV). The city as innovation platform

Notes from the Creative destruction. Social innovation initiatives conference, organized by the Etopia centre for art and technology and the ZZZINC collective. Held a the Centro Joaquín Roncal, Zaragoza, Spain, in November 27, 2012. More notes on this event: createdestruct.

Julia López Varela, HUB Madrid

The original idea of the HUB was born in London and then spread all over until it hit Madrid in 2010. The vision of the HUB is to share knowledge by working together. The HUB Company is like a “social franchise” that shares their knowledge when a new hub is to be created: guidelines, methodology, know how, etc. Once the hub is created after individual initiative, it operates independently — it is even free to choose the way it is incorporated (as an association, a cooperative, etc.).

The hub is fed with content from their members. Members pay low fees to be able to use the spaces, the space only being the “excuse” to connect with other people. Hosts of the hub (its staff) are specialists in knowing all the projects being carried on in the hub and trying to put different interests/people together. They also provide guidance, courses and diffusion activities in general so that knowledge spreads. The goal is empowering entrepreneurs, create a community, way beyond just co-working.

A key of the HUB is having success projects that can inspire others, not only by sharing know how but also by sharing attitudes, hopes.

Isabel Cebrián, A Zofra Grupo de Estudios Metropolitanos de Zaragoza

A Zofra is a meeting place for building cultural and political action. A Zofra is one of the fosterers of La Pantera Rossa centro social librería, a library which acts as a civic centre and knowledge hub.

The experiences of mutation in the city take place, as a trend, embedded in the dynamics of financial capital.

Most of methodologies on innovation are usually vertical and with a top-down approach. This rarely leads to participation. Indeed, some of these “participatory” processes what they really do is steal ideas from the citizens and put them into practice but with different purposes to the ones that originated those ideas. This is especially true in debates around cities and urbanism.

Is it possible to improve city infrastructures without depending on massive investments promised by macroevents?

Can we imagine forms of government open to direct participation, hacking the city? Politics should be democratized, distributing decision-making and urban management to the citizenry.

How do we sustain this social tissue? We should transfer money from other parts of the budget (e.g. saving banks from bankruptcy). There is now the hype of ‘smart cities’ that, many times, it is just replicating what is being done in social innovation initiatives (i.e. knowledge + technology). Instead of designing ‘smart cities’ without citizens, it should be considered to include them in the initial design. Again, to be able to sustain the contributions of citizens, a policy of basic income would apply.

Santiago Cirugeda, Recetas Urbanas

What is the model of building a city, huge infrastructures designed top-down by politicians, or small vital experiences that happen bottom-up and in a collective way?

It is important to share how these small vital experiences, experiences of activism, take place, how they are designed, what is the “recipe” to cook discontent, participation and civic action.

Social innovation has not to forget what is the reason that there is such a need for social innovation: many times is the failure of the public sector, and activism should not only create and fix things, but point towards the ones that caused the problems that need being fixed. Indeed, social innovation can collaborate with public institutions, but also fight them back and use, with or without permission, their infrastructures — especially if they are idle.

Trust and unselfishness are the essential means for social innovation, for collectively building things.

Social innovation, though, is difficult to characterize and stereotypy. It is difficult that there are similar protocols, as they even change in the very same project or locality. The best way to learn is sharing everyone’s experiences and thus be able to try or to tell what can work or what cannot in a specific action.

Discussion

Javier Creus: what should we get rid of? Cirugeda: There is too much public intervention. Governments should ask what the citizens need, and not just acting without asking. Citizens need the ability to solve their problems on their own. What is participation if there is no social mediation before? Participation is not asking for an opinion, but empowering people so that they are able to do things by themselves.

Open Parliament: the Senate in the Net (2012)

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2012) “Createdestruct (IV). The city as innovation platform” In ICTlogy, #110, November 2012. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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