A glimpse of the good future

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. These famous words, uttered on an icy January afternoon in 1933 during Franklin Roosevelt’s inaugural address, continue to resonate 85 years later. In Europe’s cities today, they carry particular weight, as the pessimism barometer seems to rise inexorably.

Roosevelt issued his rallying call at a time when the US – and indeed the global economy – seemed on the brink of collapse. The incoming President assumed office at an inauspicious time, with one in four Americans out of work. Today, in footballing terms, we might call it a ‘hospital pass’ – a very unwelcome gift. Of course, FDR, advised by the best brains in the country, had ambitious plans to put America back to work – what he would refer to as the New Deal. But he knew that while those plans took shape, he would have to address the psychological damage inflicted by the Great Depression. Overcoming the fear that gripped the country was the first step to stabilization – and to staving off the extremists.

Today in Europe, fear is all around us. People are afraid that their jobs will disappear – taken over by robots, undercut by migrants or outsourced to parts of the world where labour is cheaper. They worry that the welfare state will have disappeared by the time they retire and that they will no longer be able to live in their neighbourhoods as property prices rise and our great cities become the preserve of the rich. Worst of all, they fear that their children’s lives will be worse than theirs, corroding the most valuable commodity – hope.

Fear and uncertainty are happy hunting grounds for scaremongers. We have already experienced this with BREXIT and the rise of Trump. Within mainland Europe we also see it in those Member States building walls and rewriting history. Facts are not allowed to get in the way of these new populist narratives.

Our cities ignore these developments at their peril. Although fear can be irrational, the root causes – concerns about life’s fundamentals; home; food; work – require us all to sit up and take note. In the face of this challenge, how can our cities respond?

The Future is already here

It’s too early to state with any certainty the patterns that will define the 21st Century; however some early distinctions seem evident. One is the decline of ‘systemic’ solutions – the so-called ‘isms’ of the 20th Century (Socialism, Fascism, Communism etc) – for more pragmatic alternatives. Another is the rebalancing of power between nation states and cities. Mayors may not rule the world just yet, but the trend of devolution towards regional and metropolitan solutions continues. As Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institution noted in a recent interview:

I would say that there has been a de facto memo sent out by the national government and most states to city-regions and counties: you are in charge of the future. You, literally, are going to need to figure out how to fund those things, those activities — whether it’s innovation, whether it’s infrastructure, whether it’s inclusion — that really set the platform for growth, prosperity, and equity. That the nation-state really had become sclerotic and non-entrepreneurial. It lacks the discretion and the agility to adapt to what is fast-changing societal challenges and fast-changing technological disruption.”

Although this process of renegotiation will not happen overnight, in some places it’s well under way. As William Gibson once noted: “The future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed.” Where it is here, cities are looking to address the existential issues we face. As well as climate change, this means ensuring that all citizens have enough to address their basic human needs. In line with the New Urban Agenda, this means tackling poverty, UN Habitat’s first Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). Shameful but true, that in 21st Century Europe we still face such basic challenges.

Within URBACT, cities are bringing fresh thinking and innovative policies to these age-old challenges. Amongst these is the rethinking of welfare, driven by a combination of conclusions. One is in anticipation of a future where there may be fewer or different type of jobs as a result of automation. Another is the recognition that despite millions of euros invested in improving the infrastructure of our most deprived neighbourhoods, the most vulnerable in society often remain unaffected. Too often, displacement and gentrification have been the result.

The wave of activity around the Universal basic Income (UBI) reflects this need for new thinking. It acknowledges the need for a safety net when levels of precariousness are rising. In it’s purest form, UBI provides a flat payment to every citizen. It places recipients under no obligation to undertake tasks in exchange for payment and so is what economists’ term, unconditional.

UBI is radical and divisive. It is loved and hated by sections of the old ‘Left’ and “Right’ in equal measure. Currently, variations of the model are being piloted globally, most notably in Finland, the Netherlands and, later in 2018, Scotland. As part of the URBACT Urbinclusion network– as well as through Urban Innovative Actions , Barcelona is developing its own approach to this challenge. Targeting two of the city’s poorest barrios, the Catalan capital is testing a Minimum Income model, providing citizens with a guaranteed minimum level of income, to ensure they are above the poverty line. In this case however, receipt of support is conditional upon beneficiaries agreeing to give back to the community, for example in the form of volunteering.

Lifting the lid on the new world of work

Looking ahead, to what a meaningful life will be in 21st century urban Europe, many see civic participation as part of the story. In a digital world of different jobs and rising social isolation compassionate action may, in the words of George Monbiot, give people “what work once promised: meaning, purpose, place, community.”

Certainly, mobilizing active citizenship is a common factor to those cities looking to promote more cohesive communities, which we can see through URBACT networks like CHANGE! Again, this policy discussion touches upon the Future of Work debate, whilst connecting to other fundamental issues, most notably the need to reinvigorate democracy and to address the growing epidemic of urban loneliness and isolation.

But although paid work may play a less important role in future, it remains a pressing and immediate policy priority right now. This is where we desperately need innovative solutions.

Today, many Europeans remain unemployed, particularly young people in the South. Ten years on from the Global Financial Crisis, the most recent EU data indicates that in Greece the 2017 youth unemployment rate was 41%, in Spain 37% and in Italy 32%.

However, it is not just the unemployed who are poor. In work poverty affects 8% of the working age population in OECD countries. The scale of the informal economy, the rise of the Gig Economy and the seasonal nature of sectors like tourism, mean that increasing numbers in work lead precarious lives. There is extensive evidence that in many parts of Europe wage rates have not recovered from the 2008 crash. OECD analysis showed that in the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia and the United Kingdom in 2015, hourly wages were 25% below what they should have been if normal wage growth had continued. For Hungary, Greece and Ireland the gap was over 20%. Only Germany bucked this depressing trend.

Meanwhile, the growing disparity between those at the top and those at the bottom of the employment chain fuels the sense amongst ordinary workers that no one is fighting their corner and that inequality is inevitable. On average, the 10% wealthiest households hold half of total wealth in the OECD countries; the next richest 50% hold almost the entire other half, while the 40 % least wealthy own little over 3%.

In the UK, calculations by the GMB Trade Union to mark the twentieth anniversary of the introduction of the Minimum Wage showed that the salary of top executives had increased by 354% to an average of UK£4.35 million per annum. In this same period the minimum wage had risen by £7.50 per hour. And of course there is a gender dimension to this unequal state of affairs, with women in the EU earning on average 16% less per hour than their male counterparts.

These structural inequalities undermine citizens’ trust in our institutions. They exacerbate the sense of frustration with policy makers and, ultimately, create a climate that can be manipulated by those wishing to destroy the cohesive urban model which, for many, represents the best of Europe.

A mix of old and new

Again, the question comes: what can cities do? Part of the solution is adopting agile responses to the new challenges created by the digital economy. For example, municipalities can regulate to mitigate the potential damage caused by the extractive platform business models. Many cities have already taken steps to limit the damage caused by the major players such as Uber and Airbnb. They are also exploring how these new technologies can be harnessed for good.

But as well as developing new responses, sometimes we need to pay attention to familiar concepts that might have a new found relevance. Like those who champion UBI as an old idea whose time has come, growing numbers of cities are turning to another long-standing model as an effective tool to tackle growing inequalities in the workplace – the Co operative business.

The concept of the co-operative business, as we recognize it, dates back to the north of England in the mid 19th century. Behind it, is the basic idea that workers own the business in which they work. More recently, another version has emerged where the cooperative business is owned by its customers – as is the case with many food coops. Emerging during the early industrial revolution, cooperatives evolved alongside the growing organisation of the industrial working class. Forged by tight-knot mutually supporting communities, the model spread around the globe.

Fast forward to 2018 and cooperatives remain alive and well in Europe. We find them throughout the EU, with deep roots in particular regions. One of the best known of these is in the Mondragon Valley in the Basque Country. From humble beginnings in 1956, the Mondragon Corporation has expanded into a business comprising 261 companies employing almost 75,000 worldwide. Operating an annual turnover of €12 billion per year, much of Mondragon’s production revolves around high quality manufactured goods. Despite its growth, the group remains wedded to an established code of cooperative principles which include:

  • Open admission
  • Democratic organisation
  • Participatory management
  • 1 to 7 payment ratio, and
  • Inter-solidarity mechanisms

The Mondragon Valley, comprising a cluster of small municipal authorities, provides an example of how an innovative ecosystem can cover a territory comprising sub-urban and rural communities. On every level, cooperation is at its heart: cooperation between public and private sector, between businesses, voluntary sector, academia and between communities. This valley presents extraordinary indicators in relation with GDP per capita, but also secondary and university education, life expectancy, poverty and equality.

Mondragon is a structure which is constantly evolving and reinventing itself. As it does so, it generates a need for new products and services that are met by the start up of new cooperative businesses. So, as well as servicing external customers, within the group there is a strong internal market where cooperatives buy and sell from one another. They collaborate and compete with each other at the same time and there is no central command. This continuous and distributed innovation system generates resilience. It is one of the distinctive features driving the business that should be better understood for other social business to operate at scale. For many, Mondragon needs to be interpreted as a social innovation ecosystem that is reinventing the rationale and methods of social transformation movements in the context of Industry 4.0 competitiveness strategies.

Another is the quality of life offered by working for the Mondragon Group. In many other businesses of this scale, the CEO will earn many multiples of the salary of their regular employees. In a Mondragon Cooperative, typically the CEO will earn no more than seven times the salary of a shop floor employee. Perhaps even more importantly, all employees will take lunch in the same staff canteen, reinforcing the sense of solidarity and social connection. Equality makes Mondragon more competitive.

The value of cooperatives in such communities although distinctive in the Basque country is not unique. Parts of Italy – in particular Emilia Romagna – have long been established as centres of cooperative business activity, particularly in sectors including furniture and food production. A recent investigation into Finnish cooperatives reported that this small country has more cooperative members (5.4 million) than its entire population. The article quotes Finnish Nobel Prize winner A. I. Vertanen noting that:

We have no Rockefellers or Carnegies, but we do have co-operatives.”

At a time when an interest in workplace democracy and tackling economic inequality is rising, there is a renewed interest in cooperatives as being part of the solution. As businesses they generate jobs. As principled businesses they seek to create meaningful employment, giving workers a say in the running of the operation. As equitable organisations they strive to tackle the gap between the highest and lowest paid, offering employees a genuine stake in their own destiny and the organization’s future. What we see in places like the Mondragon Valley is a large-scale manifestation of the European Commission´s commitment towards inclusive growth, a principled business model firmly rooted within the local community. One of the 97 URBACT Good Practices reflects this growing interest amongst cities in supporting cooperative businesses. Cooperative City, Glasgow, is an example of a municipality reinventing how it engages with citizens to design and redevelop services. The principle of co-design is at the heart of this transformation. The model includes the establishment of new platforms to collaborate with citizens and local organisations. It also includes a financial package to support the development of cooperatives.

The aim of the Cooperative Business Development Fund is to provide financial and structural support for the establishment of cooperatives, mutual and social enterprises. The support package is cross-sectoral and to date it has invested over €7,700,000 in new enterprises, through 56 awards. This has created or safeguarded over 325 jobs and volunteer positions.

A glimpse of the good future?

What can cities take from this? For sure, a greater sense of responsibility and a green light to find their own solutions. Alongside that, a clear message that they are not alone. Across Europe, sister cities are keen to share and explore together, through URBACT and other channels. Finally, in the confusing rush of the New, lets not overlook potential solutions that may already be familiar – like Cooperatives. As Victor Hugo, who also visited the Basque Country pointed out: “There is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come.”

Gorka Espiau & Eddy Adams


Putting Innovation in a Box


The Centre for Intellectual Property Policy (CIPP) is organizing, with multiple partners, a week of conferences, workshops and roundtables focused on public policy supporting innovation and intellectual property in Montreal.

Innovation week schedule > Programme de la semaine


RSVP/information (les places sont limitées):  cipp1.law@mcgill.ca.

Mon > Lun 19 The End of Innovation as We Know It with Richard Gold (CIPP/CPPI, McGill)

12h-13h30, McGill Law (3644 Peel, room 316), $20 for lawyers seeking CLE credit

Tue > Mar 20 From Big Data and Open Data to Community Actions and Impacts with Gorka Espiau (CIRM/CRIEM, McGill), Stéphane Guidoin, Charles-Antoine Julien, Jean-Noé Landry, Pierre Luc Bacon, Geneviève Boisjoly

13h30-15h30, CEIM (20 Queen Street)

Wed > Mer 21 Law and the Blockchain: A Crash Course with Allison Christians (McGill), Max Jarvie, Kendra Rossi, Marc Richardson Arnoud

12h-14hMcGill Law (3644 Peel, room 316), $30 for lawyers seeking CLE credit

Thu > Jeu 22 Putting Innovation in a Box: Tax and IP Policy, Society, and the State with Allison Christians and Pierre-Emmanuel Moyse (McGill), Nicolas Binctin, Alessandra Flamini, Irma Mosquera, Lyne Latulippe, Alain Strowel, Edoardo Traversa, Jean-Pierre Vidal, Laurens van Apeldoorn

13h30-17h30, CEIM (20 Queen Street),  $50 for lawyers seeking CLE credit

Fri > Ven 23 Innovating at the International Level – CETA, BREXIT, NAFTA with Armand de Mestral (McGill), Marc Bungenberg, Charles-Emmanuel Côté, Henri Culot, Graeme Dinwoodie, Alain Strowel, Edoardo Traversa, Lukas Vanhonnaeker

9h00-15h00, Faculty Club (3450 McTavish), $50 for lawyers seeking CLE credit

For more details about the events, click here.


Forging empowering civic narratives

At the beginning of 2017, the McConnell Foundation embarked on a project to share learning about how social change happens. Rather than share the perspectives of their own team, they went outside McConnell, wanting to amplify the incredible efforts of individuals working on transforming systems in diverse fields. That project became “Countless Rebellions,” an interview series dedicated to exploring social innovation and systems change. This is a summary of the interview I have recorded for this series:


“When you think back to when you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I studied journalism so I guess that was what I wanted to be.  I’m from Bilbao and there was at the time a lot of violence and a deep social and economic crisis. It was a perfect storm at the end of the Spanish dictatorship. That has conditioned the way I see things and why I’m doing what I’m trying to do.

What did you end up becoming?

I don’t know. I have three kids. They keep asking me what I do and it’s really difficult to explain. Sometimes I respond that I am a journalist, just to avoid the complexity of explaining. But if we look at it from the social innovation perspective, I think I’ve become a movement builder around social innovation initiatives, connecting grassroots initiatives with public and private institutions in order to make them scale … But, it’s a very difficult definition.

Can you describe the scale of the problem(s) that you work on?

It depends on the place. For example, in Montreal, we are working on how to generate a movement of transformation in the city. We are talking about a very large scale. How do we connect the key institutions of the city — public and private — with ordinary citizens, in order to create a movement of transformation? These are very big worlds and it’s a very ambitious vision. But, at the same time, this has implications for how you tackle, for example, security or transportation in a particular street in Montreal. We are operating at the macro and the micro level all the time.

We’ve been asking all of the key protagonists. They never say “We made this decision, or we made the right investment.” They always refer to the values.

I’m trying to bring new actors into the discussion that have the capacity to operate on a larger scale. For example, I’m working very closely with the Mondragon corporative. It’s the largest industrial corporative in the world. They created their own social innovation ecosystem out of nothing. They created their own schools, their own companies, their own banks, their own universities — everything — out of nothing, during really difficult times.

What are you learning about right now?

We are finalizing this work with Mondragon cooperative, so I’m learning about the logic of the private sector, but also about the connection between the private sector and social transformations. I’m also learning a lot about the cultural dimension of innovation and of transformation processes.

What does the cultural dimension of social innovation look like?

I’ve been involved in analyzing the transformation of the Basque area. It was a really difficult situation only a few years ago. Now we have a social-economic model that incorporates equality at the heart of the system.  We’ve been asking the key people that were involved in the transformation about why did they made certain decisions. For example, the decision of building the Guggenheim Museum by Frank Gehry in Bilbao. That idea is celebrated internationally. At the time it was a mad idea. To think, at the time, that the Guggenheim would come to Bilbao was totally irrational because there were no conditions for such a thing to happen.

Positive transformation is generated when everybody feels they are allowed to generate innovation.

We’ve been asking all of the key protagonists. They never say “We made this decision, or we made the right investment.” They always refer to the values. They always say, “we did this because we were serving a set of values about how to transform this society, and those values helped us to create a history of ourselves that was aspirational, connected with reality, and then the decisions were made based on those narratives and values.”

This is what we have documented, and this is consistent with a lot of research about long-term aesthetic decisions that are normally made based on values. There is evidence about how we make decisions. It is always a combination of rational, and value-based thinking. But we haven’t really explored what the soft cultural space is. Through an ethnographic process, we have identified in the case of Mondragon five core values that that are still present in that company today. If we can demonstrate that successful projects were actually implemented on a common value system, then we can understand a lot about how successful transformations in the social sphere — territorial but also thematic — incorporate this cultural dimension. By culture, we mean the set of values, the narratives, the beliefs and the aesthetic decisions that are made by a group, by a city, by a particular society in a particular period of time.

Is there anything you’ve noticed that people get wrong about social innovation?

For me, the most important thing is how innovation takes place at the community level. I think we have it totally wrong, applying the myth of the solo entrepreneur, the myth of Silicon Valley, which is all about the individual. This is false, it doesn’t exist, and when it happens, it has a negative social impact.

Positive transformation is generated when everybody feels they are allowed to generate innovation. We have seen this in the Mondragon experience, but we have also seen that in our work in Leeds, in the UK, and this is what we are documenting in Montreal at the moment.”

« Value systems, equality, and inequality in different socio-economic contexts: elite London and the Mondragon Valley ». Une conférence de Luna Glucksberg (LSE)

Gorka Espiau, professeur praticien de la Fondation McConnell au CRIEM, vous invite à rencontrer Mme Luna Glucksberg, chercheuse et anthropologue urbaine à l’Institut international des inégalités de la London School of Economics and Political Science, le mardi 23 janvier prochain, de 15h00 à 16h30.

De passage à Montréal pour participer au séminaire de notre professeur praticien offert aux étudiants McGillois, Mme Glucksberg s’arrêtera également au CRIEM pour présenter ses plus récents travaux au public lors d’une conférence intitulée « Value systems, equality and inequality in different socio-economic contexts: elite London and the Mondragon Valley ».  La rencontre se déroulera dans nos locaux (3438, rue McTavish, salle 100).

Plataformas de Innovación Social

Irene Ezquerra, del Centro de Innovación en Tecnología para el Desarrollo Humano (Universidad Polítecnica de Madrid) ha elaborado este fantastico post sobre mi intervención en los Seminarios Internacionales del Master en Estrategias y Tecnologías para el Desarrollo :



Los retos sociales actuales, como el envejecimiento, el desempleo, la pobreza o la desigualdad, son tan complejos y de tal magnitud que no podemos abordarlos con las herramientas que tenemos. En el sector público, cada vez se toma más conciencia de que los recursos con los que se cuenta no son ni serán suficientes.

Por ejemplo, en el ámbito de la transformación urbana debemos buscar modelos que vayan más allá del concepto de smart city o ciudad inteligente, ya que se tiene evidencia de que la introducción de tecnología en un espacio urbano sin procesos de transformación social genera mayor desigualdad. Esto supone un cambio de paradigma.

¿Cómo responder a los retos sociales de forma innovadora? Gorka propone conectar los aprendizajes del mundo de la innovación con el mundo de la transformación social.


En los últimos tiempos se ha incorporado la perspectiva sistémica para abordar los sistemas complejos en el terreno de la innovación social, donde existe una importante confusión terminológica. Gorka distingue tres tipos de innovación:

  • innovación incremental: la que intenta mejorar de forma gradual las cosas que ya existen
  • innovación estructural: la que intenta transformar estructuras y sistemas
  • innovación disruptiva: la que intenta generar marcos de referencia y mercados totalmente diferentes

En el caso de la innovación incremental (donde opera la mayor parte de la cooperación actual), si las intervenciones no son capaces de responder a los retos complejos de forma interrelacionada, por mucho que transformemos elementos específicos del sistema no podremos dar solución a los problemas estructurales.

2 min


Todavía hoy persiste la narrativa que afirma que la verdadera innovación se produce en el sector privado y limita el papel del sector público a la generación de condiciones para que las empresas puedan desarrollar esa innovación.

Existe un complejo de inferioridad en el ámbito público y en el de las ONG, que van incorporando ideas de innovación tomando como referencia las iniciativas privadas. Sin embargo, no todos los ejemplos del sector privado sirven como modelo. En este sentido, Gorka nos invita a conocer el trabajo de Mariana Mazzucato, centrado en demostrar que el sector público es al menos igual de innovador y emprendedor que el sector privado, y además está dispuesto a asumir muchos más riesgos.

2 min


El hardware son los proyectos, los prototipos, los artefactos que se construyen.

El software es la dimensión cultural que hace que una misma iniciativa funcione en un lugar y no en otro. La cultura y la identidad son determinantes para el impacto de los proyectos. Sin embargo, son factores difíciles de operativizar.

2 min


¿Está funcionando lo que hacemos?

A día de hoy, se está viendo que, aunque mejoran los procesos, la evidencia del impacto generado por los mismos es muy limitada. Inspirada del ámbito de la tecnología, la espiral de la innovación responde a un modelo conceptual transaccional y excesivamente instrumental.

Los procesos de cambio social son relacionales. En ellos, la dimensión cultural es la que determina el avance y, por tanto, es igual o más importante que la dimensión operacional.

El modelo de olas, cada vez más utilizado, responde mejor a esta realidad. Con este, los procesos de transformación social se entienden como movimientos de olas (cada una de ellas es un proyecto de características muy diferentes) que avanzan en la misma dirección, aunque nadie tiene control sobre ellas. En este modelo, las etapas del proceso que aparecían ya en la espiral de la innovación se repiten de forma iterativa: cuantas más iteraciones, es decir, cuanto más escuchamos, mayor impacto generamos.

10 min


La innovación social no siempre responde a procesos racionales, por lo que el reto actual consiste en conectar las decisiones estratégicas, los cambios normativos y las acciones con lo soft: las creencias, las narrativas y valores que la comunidad identifica como propios.

3 min


El mito del emprendedor individual (el modelo de Silicon Valley) se ha trasladado al ámbito comunitario. Con el actual sistema acaban obteniendo financiación los proyectos que ya estaban empoderados y, en la mayoría de los casos, esas iniciativas acaban migrando principalmente a zonas urbanas para desarrollar su actividad. Esto conduce a una pérdida de talento en la comunidad.

Los procesos de cambio sistémico en el ámbito comunitario se producen cuando se genera un permiso social para innovar, es decir cuando todos los miembros de la comunidad se sienten invitados a poder actuar de forma innovadora.

¿Cómo hacer entender en la comunidad que todos podemos innovar?

3 min


El proceso de escucha debe situarse en el mismo plano que los procesos de acción y consiste en conocer las meta-narrativas que imperan en una comunidad determinada. Para ello, se dedican a recoger historias, construcciones colectivas de lo que es posible y lo que no lo es.

¿Cómo llevar a cabo un proceso de cambio estructural en una comunidad en la que la narrativa del éxito es, por ejemplo, migrar a otros lugares?

Tras la etapa de escucha puede iniciarse un proceso de co-creación en el que grupos de trabajo responden directamente a las inquietudes expresadas por la comunidad. En muchos casos, no es necesario inventar nada nuevo. El primer paso –la primera ola– es conectar cosas que ya existen con las demandas sociales.

Al mismo tiempo que identificamos la idea concreta que se va a testar, es necesario conectar esa idea con la narrativa que está operando en el ámbito comunitario. Con un esfuerzo de comunicación y de creación de movimiento en las fases de co-creación, prototipado y evaluación podremos lograr cambios en esa narrativa.

8 min


Las plataformas conectan iniciativas independientes (proyectos de escucha o intervenciones en el ámbito comunitario) con el objetivo de pasar de narrativas individuales a narrativas colectivas y, posteriormente, a narrativas transformadoras.

Aquellas con vocación de cambio sistémico están incorporando procesos de escucha y utilizan una serie de preguntas que facilitan la detección de las narrativas que operan en una determinada comunidad: qué percepciones tienen las personas sobre su comunidad, qué aspiraciones tienen, qué oportunidades observan, qué necesidades detectan, cuáles son las relaciones de poder…

De forma periódica, cada dos o tres meses, las iniciativas se reúnen para llevar a cabo un proceso de interpretación colectiva de la información.

Las narrativas transformadoras son aquellas que van acompañadas de acción. Pero, ¿cómo llevamos las plataformas de escucha a la acción? ¿Cómo unimos la escucha a los procesos de co-creación, aceleración y amplificación? Debemos romper la dinámica lineal e incorporar el proceso de escucha a todas las fases del proceso.

7 min


En la innovación social cabe distinguir cinco categorías que precisan de procesos de incubación y de apoyo muy diferentes:

  • acciones comunitarias sin modelo de negocio
  • micro-emprendimientos
  • emprendimientos de pequeña y mediana escala
  • emprendimientos de gran escala
  • cambios legislativos

Sin embargo, a día de hoy en las fases de amplificación las categorías se están tratando por igual y existen muy pocos ejemplos de gran escala. Es importante señalar que no hay evidencia científica de que la mayoría de prototipos diseñados para una escala pequeña puedan alcanzar una escala mayor. Es necesario invertir más recursos y esfuerzos en diseños de larga escala.

La perspectiva de movimiento de transformación se basa en la combinación e interconexión de las cinco categorías para lograr cambios sistémicos.

4 min


Actualmente, la inversión se concentra en los proyectos y no se destina financiación a los procesos de escucha y co-creación. Sin embargo, este sistema supone mayores riesgos para el financiador ya que desconoce si la iniciativa responde a necesidades reales de la comunidad.

Las plataformas estudian en este momento cómo generar fondos de inversión para combinar financiación pública y privada. Las decisiones sobre la distribución de la financiación se toman de forma consensuada dentro de la plataforma.


Plantear que debemos dejar de competir es absurdo. ¿Cómo aprender a competir y colaborar al mismo tiempo? En opinión de Gorka, las organizaciones que no aprendan no podrán sobrevivir en el contexto actual. La clave es ir un paso por delante en la innovación y compartir el conocimiento en abierto.

5 min


La evaluación debe permitir preguntarse: ¿en este momento tiene sentido hacer lo que se dijo que se iba a hacer? Para ello, necesitamos nuevos indicadores que puedan medir los cambios de narrativa y percepción dentro de la comunidad, las nuevas oportunidades de relación que han surgido durante el proceso, etc…

5 min


En el diseño del proceso deben combinarse objetivos a corto, medio y largo plazo. Por ejemplo, iteraciones de 12 meses con resultados cada tres meses. Es fundamental comunicar los resultados dentro de la comunidad con suficiente frecuencia  para reforzar el proceso.”

4 min

Winter Seminar at McGill



This 2018 Winter semester, CIRM’s Professor of Practice of the McConnell Foundation, Gorka Espiau, will be teaching a seminar – URBP 542 New Social Innovation Dynamicsat the School of Urban Planning of McGill University. The one credit seminar will beheld January 16th, 18th, 22ndand 23rd 2018, from 6:05 to 8:55 p.m.:

January 16th    Introduction to Social Innovation: Theory and Practice.

January 18th    Community Listening Tools: Using Ethnographic Techniques to Capture Urban Narratives.

January 22nd   Large Scales Social Innovation Platforms.

January 23rd   Future Avenues: Movement Building Applied to City Transformation.

McGill students can register through Minerva, while students from other Quebec universities can register through the CREPUQ (before December 15th).

Estrategias y Tecnologías para el Desarrollo


En el marco del Seminario Internacional del Master Estrategias y Tecnologías para el Desarrollo que imparte la Universidad Politécnica de Madrid en colaboración con la Universidad Complutense, el próximo jueves, 14 de diciembre presentaré  una reflexión sobre las limitaciones del marco teórico y las prácticas de innovación social más avanzadas, a partir de los siguientes presupuestos:

  • las iniciativas de innovación social deben actuar sobre los elementos normativos y sobre los elementos culturales;
  • la innovación social debe generar un “permiso social para innovar” que afecte al conjunto de la comunidad con la que pretende actuar;
  • las iniciativas de innovación deben diseñarse como plataformas que tratan de transformar sistemas complejos;
  • las iniciativas de innovación social deben integrar el desarrollo económico-social y medioambiental.

Puedes leer el artículo (PDF) publicado recientemente para la Revista del Tercer Sector en el que se desarrollan estas ideas.

Cuándo: Jueves, 14 de diciembre, a las 16:30
Lugar: Aula Magna de la ETSI Agronómica, Alimentaria y de Biosistemas (enfrente al itdUPM). Av. Puerta de Hierro, 2. Ciudad Universitaria. Madrid (Ver mapa)

Para asistir, inscríbete aquí

Deep listening applied to job creation in India

In less than ten years from now, by 2027, India will expand to become a $6 trillion economy. This impressive growth trajectory has however, not translated into a corresponding increase in jobs. Our belief is that micro entrepreneurship forms the center-piece for building future of work especially for those being left behind in the race for jobs.

“La Caixa” Banking Foundation and Development Alternatives recognize people’s need to navigate through the complex challenges surrounding entrepreneurship. Work 4 Progress (W4P) was born out of the need by the foundation for a multi-faceted and innovative approach to creating systemic solutions that unleash entrepreneurship – not only creating enterprises by the millions but more importantly enabling them to create ‘decent and ‘attractive’ jobs – jobs ‘we’ want.


In order to do so the program aims to 1. Uncover ‘jobless growth’ through ground up narratives 2. Liberate the entrepreneurial energies communities 3. Empower youth and women to become job creators 

Development Alternatives has, through deep listening and interactive processes, built an understanding of the entrepreneurship landscape in hundreds of villages of Uttar Pradesh.  Resources have been pooled to introduce innovative, systemic solutions in over40 villages. One such example is the use of community radio to launch a competitive “reality show” for entrepreneurs called Kaun Banega Business Leader in which 800 participants are at different stages of co-creating business models and enterprise solutions to tap into new economy opportunities.


Experimentation by Design


This is the program of the “Experimentation by Design” symposium organized by the Danish Design Center on 7 December 2017 in Copenhagen. I will present the Basque experience of socio-economic transformation at scale. This is the rationale and content of the event:

“As the pace of technological and global change continues to increase, business and government organisations are challenged to become more nimble and experimental both strategically, organisationally and operationally. Businesses are entering new emergent forms of value-creation such as digital platforms, sharing and circular business models, while governments embrace impact investment, shared value and co-production. However, under conditions of complexity, such new models cannot merely be ”implemented” in existing organisations. Rather, they mush be discovered through processes of experimentation. So what does that take?

The Danish Design Centre and the Danish Business Authority invites decision makers across leading private and public organisations to explore how to design, run and gain value from systematic experiments.

For business leaders, we will explore the rise of X Labs – dedicated environments for co-creating innovative products, services and business models.

For policy makers at international, national, regional and local level we will explore how to make innovation and business policy more coherent, business-centred and experimental.

Together we will broaden our view on new forms of value-creation and experimentation as we head towards the third decade of the twenty-first century.

Experimentation by Design is organised as a highly interactive symposium where you will learn as much from the other participants as from the formal speakers and workshop leaders. The event will include keynotes by leading figures in business and policy innovation, and separate tracks focusing on themes such as design as experimental strategy, foresight, organisation and X labs, value and impact measurement. Participants will be challenged to suggest how they would design the ultimate experimental organisation – from vantage points of business, policymaking and research.

The programme will be updated continually.

Download the preliminiary programme: Experimentation by Design

Confirmed speakers:

  • Noah Raford, Chief Operating Officer (COO) & Futurist-in-Chief, Dubai Future Foundation
  • Lucy Kimbell, Director, Innovation Insights Hub & Professor of Contemporary Design Practices, University of the Arts London
  • Simon Haldrup, Global Head of Business Development, Wealth Management, Danske Bank
  • Jesper Grønbæk, Vice President & Head of Growth, TDC, Copenhagen
  • Torsten Andersen, Vice Director, Danish Business Authority
  • Rainer Kattel, Professor of Innovation and Public Governance, Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, University College London
  • Gorka Espiau, Professor of Practice CRIEM/CIRM at McGill University
  • Anne Marie Engtoft Larsen, Knowledge Lead, Fourth Industrial Revolution, World Economic Forum
  • Torben Klitgaard, Director, BLOXHUB
  • Hanne Harmsen, Vice Director, head of InnoBooster, Innovation Fund Denmark
  • Tommy Andersen, Managing Partner, byFounders
  • Christian Bason, CEO, Danish Design Centre

Please note: The conference is reserved for policy makers and managers, and ´by invitation only´.”