Accelerating Social Innovation: lessons from SiCamp

Sicamp_4 80 ideas, 100 people, 44 hours, 7 projects, sun, snow, and lots of energy and enthusiasm. Social Innovation Camp came and went last weekend and was great fun and very productive. For a flavour of how it all worked, take a look at the Guardian Blog by Bobbie Johnson, Twitter, Flickr, or David Wilcox Qik videos.

The reason I was keen for Nesta to support SiCamp in the first place was to see if a hack-weekend format would work for bringing together people around social challenges. I was not aware of it being tried before like this, certainly not in the UK. Also, it seems to fit our Nesta Connect mantra of experimenting with new, unexpected or extreme collaboration to stimulate new innovation.

On of the big lessons for me of the weekend was how limited organisation can unleash ideas, which is counter-intuitive for many. There was so much energy and enthusiasm there was in all the groups compared with the large organisations and beaurecracies that normally try to solve some of these very same issues, but they tend to try to crack ‘nuts’ with a proverbial ‘sledgehammer’.

Also, none of the groups that came together were pre-formed so there was a big socialisation aspect that was really important. A great way they used to break the ice on the first night was some stickers where you could tag yourself or others with words that describe yourself in some shape or form: ‘geek’, ‘coder’, ‘troublemaker’, ‘connector’ etc. As Johnnie Moore stated in one of the clips, it’s very hard to be pompous with stickers/tags on you, and that certainly helped build the interactions.

So well done again to the team, in particular Anna Maybank, Paul Miller, Christian Ahlert and Dan McQuillan for doing a great job in making it all happen and work so well. The big question for me now is, how to mainstream the energy, enthusiasm and ideas of Si Camp at larger scale.

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