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Research  Education  Policy advice Network coordination

As an independent scientific institute, ZSI generates, disseminates, and applies knowledge and skills (see also Methods & Skills) in thematic areas (see also Thematic Areas) that relate to meeting the grand societal challenges of our time. In these thematic areas, ZSI acts on different spatial levels from local to global (see also Regions) through the deployment of:

Research – design and management of use-inspired research

Acting as independent research institute, ZSI and its staff cover a broad range of use-inspired and use-centred research activities, including trans-disciplinary research, in our core fields of operation. ZSI research projects can be characterised by the following features:

  • Collaboration of researchers from different disciplines
  • Research projects exhibit different structures and sizes
  • For financial support various funding schemes are approached
  • Deployment of well-established, innovative methodologies of data collection and analysis
  • Thematically, ZSI's research addresses social, ecological, and economic challenges of the 21st century
  • Involvement of a wide spectrum of target groups from all societal sectors

Education - design and management of training concepts, courses, and academic programmes

ZSI and its staff are involved in a broad variety of academic and vocational education activities. The activities of the institute in this area comprise:

  • The implementation of SOQUA, a post-graduate academic course for international social-scientific research
  • Launching the first academic online training course in Austria on ‘Energy Management and Energy Consulting’ (EMEC starting in 1998)
  • Design and establishment of an academic study programme ‘European Master of Social Innovation’ (MASI), in collaboration with the Danube University Krems
  • Initiation and implementation of the European School of Social Innovation (ESSI)
  • 30% of ZSI researchers teach at universities, universities of applied sciences, and in other educational organisations
  • ZSI’s researchers give at average more than 2.5 presentations per year with a very high international outreach
  • Annually, on average, ZSI has (co-)organised several dozens of scientific professional events during the last five years

Policy Advice – strategic intelligence and design, monitoring, and evaluation of projects and programmes

ZSI provides consulting services primarily to public entities. ZSI advises on policy planning and implementation of programmes and projects, with focus on social innovations in the fields of demographic change, social exclusion, and poverty. We also assist ministries in Europe and in world-wide networks in the development of education, research and innovation policies, programmes, and instruments. We offer management support, provide evidence based analysis in support of decision making, and conduct foresight, monitoring, and evaluation. Advisory activities focus on the following services:

  • ZSI advises on how to best adapt policies to local needs
  • ZSI deploys effective mechanisms for organisations to work together
  • ZSI assists ministries and agencies in planning and delivery of different services in policy fields, such as the labour market, social and educational policy, regional development, science, and innovation
  • ZSI conducts ex-ante, interim, and ex-post evaluation, as well as monitoring and foresight

Since 1 July 2012 ZSI hosts the Austrian Platform for Research and Technology Policy Evaluation, whose members are all relevant federal Austrian ministries engaged in science, technology and innovation policy, all major Austrian RTDI funding organisations, and most importantly, RTDI evaluation providers.

Network coordination – development and implementation of virtual and tangible networks

ZSI initiates and assists the establishment of both virtual and real networks, and facilitates their implementation and operations. The fundaments of our networking projects include knowledge management processes, multi-lingual communication, inter-cultural sensitivity, programming of tailor-made databases and websites, professional project management, and sound financial controlling, which respects specific requirements of different funding schemes (e.g. structural funds, European Framework Programme for RTD etc.). Based on the institute’s excellent reputation in international partnering, network coordination is one of ZSI’s core competencies, and is elaborated as a single project type. Activities in this type of projects include:

  • ZSI coordinates and plays key roles in networks related to social innovation, participatory technology assessment, international science and technology cooperation, and area-based partnerships
  • ZSI implements ‘Networks of Excellence,’ and coordinates networks which implement integrated approaches across policy areas