Review on 2013

18. Dez 2012

Looking back to an emerging future

100.jpg by Josef Hochgerner, scientific director of ZSI

By the end of a year reviews are more than common, actually rather imperative. However, it should not be neglected that developments which became visible in the current year may date back and build on trends induced years ago. In the case of ZSI two main evolutionary, partly contradictory, changes surfaced 2012.

The first one in fact is external and causes organizational stress: There are cuts in public spending since several years, severely challenging an institute that depends fully on income project by project. Acquisition of projects becomes even more competitive than it was. In research, austerity measures first hit less fancy areas such as social sciences, a sector with traditionally high dependency of public funding. Thanks to favourable position in very wide international networks, and its diverse competencies in scope and scale the ZSI can balance a lot of shake-ups occurring.

Nevertheless, due to such developments 2012 marks the beginning of a strategic re-positioning, aiming at strengthening the internal organization and opening up to new clients and groups of stakeholders. One of the first specific measures taken was a re-structuring of the organizational chart and changes in the executive management of the institute. After a full decade of successfully acting Executive Director, Klaus Schuch took over the new position Head of Strategic Research Management. His successor as Executive Director is Wolfgang Michalek, previously deputy head of the unit “Work and Equal Opportunities”. Further measures are in preparatory stages and shall become effective during the year 2013. What ZSI wants to achieve is not only to compensate the gradual drop-out of public funding. Moreover, the core of ZSI competencies – social innovation as such and the key topics of our three units – actually call for even further augmentation of the international involvement on the one hand, and to address the public, private, and civil society sectors in more coherent and comprehensive ways.

The other one in fact is external as well, but pleasing and supporting the mission ZSI stands for since more than two decades: Social innovation definitely found its way into mainstream innovation strategies, research programmes and will be granted increasing amounts of funding in the next years. Though again faced with fierce competition in this realm, ZSI certainly enjoys some advantages based on what has been accomplished so far. We will continue working in large numbers of projects in various thematic fields and international programmes (currently 51). Yet beyond the variety of these, ZSI is increasingly invited to international presentations and conferences, and in addition to engage in significant collaboration with universities in teaching and other high-level training activities.

Primetime for training and education for social innovators

In July 2012 ZSI was responsible for the internationally appreciated SOQUA Summer School “Social Innovation in Europe and Beyond” in the beautiful settings of Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna. Based on the success of the 2011 international conference “Challenge Social Innovation. Innovating innovation by research – 100 years after Schumpeter”, the summer school was another great event to mingle researchers with practitioners, jointly learning about and from social innovation. It in fact offered continuation of established networks, as well as the creation of novel exchanges of knowledge and expertise for future collaboration.
As a result of cooperation between the ZSI and Donau Universität Krems (Danube University, University for Continuing Education) the Master of Arts in Social Innovation has been launched to start in the academic year 2012/2013.  which was presented in 2012. It is the first course of study educating academics in post-graduate education to acquire a solid professional profile of social innovators to act as enablers, evaluators and promoters of social innovation. The five semester, 120 ECTS study programme is lectured by an international faculty in English language, already attracting students from very distant world regions such as Australia and Mexico.

ZSI experts are also part of the expert pool of another new (undergraduate) M.A. study programme, namely Master of Social Design – Art as Urban Innovation offered at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, which had premiere during the winter term 2012/2013.

A final highlight of the year 2012 will be the release of a reader based on the 2011 conference Challenge Social Innovation:
Hans-Werner Franz, Josef Hochgerner, Jürgen Howaldt, eds. 2012. Challenge Social Innovation. Potentials for Business, Social Entrepreneurship, Welfare and Civil Society. Berlin-Heidelberg: Springer.

Tags: history of ZSI, social innovation

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