Social innovation workshops are all about bringing together designers and software developers with citizen experts for realistic and need-driven solutions to the social problems they face.
In Serbia, we decided to take this idea to the people. Last month in the towns of Novi Pazar, Tutin and Nova Varos, we unveiled Serbia’s first ever social innovation workshop:
Be the change you want to see.
So we borrowed from our colleagues across the border from UNDP in fYR Macedonia, who’ve already turned a number of people’s issues and ideas into a variety of new solutions – from building a mobile app for youth unemployment to using SMS and Facebook to reduce pollution and increase apple farming yields in the Prespa Lake region.
Together, they helped us run “itch workshops” in order to bring the perspectives of excluded groups and what matters to them into the center.
The three municipalities where we held the workshops brought together young people and residents from rural areas alongside civil society organizations in order to identify priority social issues and needs. These included: youth unemployment, health services, and the environment among others.
Teo Taranis was one of the participants at Novi Pazar, his enthusiasm was contagious:
“Fantastic! I am a blogger and I came here with an idea of improving my blogging techniques and skills, at least that was what I was expecting initially. Instead, I’ve learned what a social innovation camp is and I already have several ideas. One that is currently racking my brain is linked to the National Employment Service and how to improve the communication between them and end users i.e. us –the citizens. I think that if my idea goes off it will not just be accepted locally but nationally!”
One thing that surprised us was realizing how much technology is being used in rural areas – not only for gaming and communication – but for income generation as well.
This was the case of Sara Saljic who comes from the small, rural municipality of Tutin.
Sara is a psychologist using Facebook in her work with women and girls seeking support. For her the workshop was “a light at the end of the tunnel.”
“There are so many talented and capable women who do not know how to engage and make their lives more meaningful. I think that SIC is perfect for them and it is perfect for young people. I will definitely be with you until you stop existing.”
To quote Richard Harwood, “Public innovation isn’t necessarily about something shiny or new or complex, but about something that works better, leads to better results and creates a better pathway forward.”
It’s also about persistence, contributing to team work and most importantly it`s about shaping your own community which is why we’re working hard to work with the citizens from these municipalities as well as from an additional three: Nova Varos, Priboj and Sjenica.
A website is also in the works to be used for communication and online discussion before we launch the call for ideas.
We hope you’ll stay tuned and join the conversation.