World Forum for Social Innovation
Provisional Programme: Social Engineering; Human Resource Development; Social Catalysis;
Human Development; Social Transmutation ?
- / -
Provisional programme for a forum to be held in Paris in 1976 under the auspices
of Mankind 2000
(Brussels) and the Centre d'étude des consequences générales
des grandes techniques nouvelles (CTN, Paris).
Earlier variants appeared as: Social Transmutation Conference: details of possible themes
(Revised notes, March 1974. PDF original
); Proposed Conference Series on Social Catalysis
(Revised notes 6-8, February 1974, PDF original
), Proposed Conference Series on Social Engineering
(Preliminary notes 1-5, November 1973, PDF original
It is widely
acknowledged that mankind is faced with an
increasingly complex challenge. The
number and diversity of
problems and crises with which society is confronted continue
to increase. The interrelatedness of these problems and their
cumulative negative effect on human beings become daily more
apparent. Complexity and the large scale of many
forcing decisions to be made at levels where individual participation of those affected is increasingly remote, producing
a crisis in political and social development which threatens
the whole future of society.
The quality of
individual human life and that of the community is changing rapidly and in many senses deteriorating ; foreseeable technological
developments will have a still greater
influence, presenting both opportunities for a richer life and
a multiplicity of attendant dangers.
Humanity, in its
struggle against hardship, has succeeded
in creating institutions whose objectives are material affluence
(through agriculture, industry and commerce). ButA because of
the difficulties resulting from increasing social complexities,
institutions have not yet been created which are capable of aiding the vast mass of people to find the means for their own development in the direction which each desires.
Many of the most serious conflicts facing mankind result from the interaction
of social, economic, technological, political and psychological forces and
can no longer be solved by fractional approaches from individual disciplines.
The time is past when individual programmes can be promoted without consideration of social consequences and when technology can be allowed to develop
without consideration of the social prerequisites of change or the social
consequences of such change. Diagnosis is often faulty. Remedies proposed
often merely suppress symptoms rather than attack the basic cause or else
lead to unforeseen interaction between programmes, which only serves to
aggravate further the problem complex. M ere modification of policies already
proved to be inadequate will not result in what is right. Science in planning
to-day is too often used to make situations which are inherently bad, more
efficiently bad. New approaches are required, sensitive to the needs and
the potential of the whole person.
In the face of this
challenge there is general bewilderment,
hopelessness and frustration on the part of the individual. Conventional organizational
responses have to a large extent
failed and are no longer perceived as having a significant or
adequate effect on the new problem complexes. The lack of creative initiative results in the present atmosphere of bankruptcy. Might not social innovation for
personal development offer the
equivalent of what was accomplished in the century past by
technical innovation for material affluence ?
B. Intended response
Conscious social innovation is an emerging approach. It is undoubtedly already
present in the form of techniques, con- cepts and prototype projects. But
these are often isolated, unknown and difficult to locate and interrelate.
They are often difficult to bring to the attention of decision-makers and the
general public upon which the latter depend for their support.
The purpose of the
World Forum on Social Innovation is to
offer a framework and focal point in time, possibly once every
- within which implemented social change projects and prototypes can be exhibited,
- from which large scale projects in the neighbouring area can be visited,
- at which the responsible organization executives, decision-makers and general
public can meet and be exposed to each others ideas, to informed criticism
and to views concerning future possibilities,
- within which researchers can meet and, confronted with implemented projects,
clarify the principles, concepts and dynamics of social innovation,
- within which, above all, a process can be initiated which will build up
sufficient momentum to maintain, facilitate and support the activities of
all those engaged in the general movement for social innovation.
It is intended that
this framework should offer a means
of obtaining an overview of t he
range of social change techniques
available (and their side-effects and
render more explicit the methods of :
- designing viable social change projects,
- choosing between very different approaches with similar results,
- interrelating the techniques used, and the projects to which they give
rise, in order to respond to problem complexes, . substituting alternative
approaches for contra-indicated techniques.
C. Forum themes
The exhibition stands, site visits, conference presentations and meetings
arranged through the Organizing Committee will respond to social innovation
themes which stress the following :
- The impact on the human person and the quality of life -
the focus is on the psycho-social conditions reinforced by characteristic
aspects rather than on detailed questions internal to the relevant disciplines.
- The interrelationship, interdependence and complementarity of
socially-oriented innovation to them -- as well as the possibility of substituting
one innovation process for another in order to facilitate the same outcome.
Presentations and exhibits which argue from working examples as illustrative
of implemented social innovation principles, rather than those which
are primarily descriptive or primarily theoretical -- preferably guarding
against excessive detail and attempting to supply a sense of perspective
over the range of possibilities, alternatives and constraints in relation
to a given approach.
These themes will be considered in connection with projects focussing on
one or more structures such as :
Innovation of organizational and administrative structures,
- Innovation of technological systems,
- Innovation of economic systems,
- Innovation of designed environments,
- Innovation of social decision-making, control and participation systems,
- Innovation of legal structures,
- Innovation of energy systems,
- Innovation of information systems,
- Innovation of public information and média communication,
- Innovation of conceptual structures and belief systems.
In every case, preference will be given to :
- "Blueprints" for projects which can be distributed widely and
used, whether :
- low resource projects,
- decentralized, open, high resource projects,
- centralized, open, high resource projects.
- the concept and design of "catalytic" products or devices which
can be made widely available to stimulate and facilitate the social innovation
process by the manner in which they change the user's relationship to his
The Forum will be an open framework - a marketplace for innovation projects
for all budgets - within which organizations and individuals looking for projects
which respond to the social problems in their own environments can be exposed
to other organizations and individuals together offering a wide range of project blueprints. The assembled expertise should help to initiate and facilitate
the evaluation process by which a particular project or approach is finally
(There is an international display every two years at Le Bourget of the range
of technological innovation in the field of the materiel available for air
transportation and space-exploration - an occasion which is a world market,
a meeting-place for specialists, and also an attraction for hundreds of thousands
of people. The organizers of the Forum have been impressed by the urgent
need for some equivalent occasion at which to display and discuss the range
or projects available for organized action against social problems).
D. Direction and interrelationship of innovation themes
Innovation of what ? In what direction ? In response to what type of problem
The double diagram below attempts to interlink a number of dimensions to
provide a framework within which such questions can be answered. Of course,
other presentations are conceivable. The essential is to keep in mind that
the social domaine is in dynamic evolution and does not lend itself readily
to static representation. The double diagram is however one attempt.
I - Social structures and their levels of organization
b Networks [Open systems)
c Systems (Closed systems)
II Structural and innovation impact
a Inorganic materiel
b Biological/Organic material
E. Structure and participation
Provisional size and direction.
large stands for organizations and enterprises to present
their approaches and achievements, particularly for large-scale
smaller stands for other
organizations to present their
approaches and achievements, possibly in more specialized areas.
(In both cases, the
nature of the presentation to be made
will be approved in advance by a committee to ensure that the
stands together give an adequate overview of the range of social
innovation trends. It is important to distinguish clearly between
techniques and projects based upon an explicit methodology and
awareness of the social variables to be taken into account and
more conventional projects which are essentially an adaptation
of the results of past experience.)
Further space, and
stand units, will be made available for
other groups to present their perception of social innovation projects (and their failures).
organizations with common interests are encouraged
to combine into viable groupings for the purpose of presenting
their separate achievements on a joint stand and servicing the
stand during the exhibition.
Each morning in the
main conference hall well-known personalities will make presentations or act as panelists. This series
of 10 sessions (2 per morning) will give an overview of the social
innovation process and direct attention to expected, and desirable
future developments. The results will be published in book form.
Some sessions may be by invitation only.
Each afternoon (or possibly in parallel with the morning conference) in the
many committee and small conference rooms, a variety of meetings
will be held on topics related to social innovation. These meetings may be
of the following types :
- Meetings of specialists arranged in advance by the Forum Organizing Committee
to develop a theme important to the advancement of social innovation.
Meetings arranged in advance by collaborating organization wishing to
use the opportunity of the Forum framework, and the presence of people interested
in themes related to social innovation in order to focus on some
matter of special interest to the organization.
Meetings arranged during the Forum by any grouping of people desiring
to explore some theme which has emerged spontaneously during discussion
or as a result of other meetings, exhibits or visits to projects in the
In each case such meetings may be by invitation only, or also open
to observers3 or conceived purely as a means of dialogue
with any interested in the chosen theme.
Interested participants will be able to take conducted tours of selected
sites in the neighbouring area which illustrate the consequences of the
social innovation process.
F. Forum dynamics
The Forum is itself an exercise in social innovation:
- firstly in that it attempts to catalyse, facilitate and support a new orientation
to problems involving principally personal development and human well-being,
- secondly in that the conventional approaches to the organization of meetings
of such scope are increasingly sterile and unsatisfactory, particularly whenever,
as in this case, it is important to ensure that there is adequate interaction
between people from different sectors and disciplines and with differing
degrees of awareness of the problems under discussion.
To succeed, therefore, the Forum must itself be the subject of social innovation
techniques and devices.
The objective of the organizers is to ensure that whatever the background
and immediate interests of the Forum participant (whether member of the general
public or visiting decision-maker), the dynamics of the occasion will enable
the person to make mutually beneficial contact quickly with those people and
organizations with which he shares a common interest and style of action.
This contact process will be nurtured by the setting to ensure that the maximum
number of such contacts lead to the conception and implementation of further
social innovation projects.
1. Spatial juxtaposition of exhibition, conference, symposia facilities,
and informal discussion areas (restaurants, cafés, bars) to facilitate movement
from one meeting mode to another.
2. Parallel programming of symposia and conferences on the main aspects of
social innovation to permit participants to follow directly related themes.
Emphasis on making available a space/time framework within which related or
unrelated meetings can be pre-arranged or spontaneously set up in response
to the emergence of new discussion themes.
3. Stimulation of meeting dynamics. Increasingly the weak points in meeting
dynamics are the speaker and the chairman (however brilliant or prestigious).
Their strategic advantages permit them to sidetrack the debate onto issues
perceived to be a waste of time for the majority or for an enthusiastic minority,
and to discourage and frustrate participants interested in greater interaction
with the speakers and with participants holding interesting views. A new device
will be available to permit participants to develop new communication patterns
within each Forum meeting in parallel with (and as an additional input
to) the formal operation of the meeting.
4. Facilitation of participant contact. Extensive use will be made of computer
profiles of the participants (distinguished by background, function, interest
and contact types desired), the pre-arranged meetings, the spontaneously emerging
meetings, the exhibit stands, and the site visits. Each participant will periodically
be able to obtain personalized suggestion lists identifying :
- people present that he could usefully contact at identified times,
planned exhibits, visits and meetings that he could usefully attend,
proposals for meetings related to his concerns which his registered
interest would help to concretize. As the meeting develops, participants
will be encouraged to modify their profiles in response to emergent themes
and meeting opportunities open to them, or to initiate their own meeting
proposals. The continual rescheduling of times and meeting rooms would be
carried out in response to the changing interests, priorities and commitments
G. Sponsorship, support and participation
Each initiative in response to any range of social problems is bedevilled
by the well-known conventional pattern of functions between the organization
and individuals who believe themselves to be principally concerned. The positive
support or leadership offered by any given organization or individual tends
immediately to provoke the negative response of others, however complementary
their functions may be. However justified, such dynamics threaten the viability
of any initiative, irrespective of any general consensus on the gravity
of the problems faced in this time of crisis.
Just as innovation is required in the content of organized response
to social problems, so it is also required in the manner in which seemingly
incompatible organization and individuals can combine their efforts and resources
in support of any such response
The Forum is conceived as an open framework which can attract the support
and sponsorship of a wide variety of organizations and personalities. It is
hoped that genuine differences (whether of approach, level of expertise, style
of action, etc.) can be contained by the framework and reflected in the
different exhibits and presentations or in the dynamics of the meetings scheduled
by each school of thought and representative grouping.
Sponsorship and support
The following are being approached with a view to sponsorship or active
support of the Forum as a whole :
- Intergovernmental institutions,
- International associations (non-governmental),
Key enterprises, specializing in social innovation (whose participation
as exhibitors will constitute the guarantee for the financial viability
of the Forum),
Key national organizations with expertise in social innovation are being
invited to function as coordinating centers to promote participation in the
Forum from each such country. (They themselves are encouraged to use innovative
technics to respond creatively to the challenge noted above.)
An appropriate structure of Committees including a Scientific Committee is
being established (principally from the above categories) in order to focus
operational and financial support for the Forum and ensure the quality of
the final result.
Organizations (or possibly governments in the case of developing countries)
with innovative social programs are invited to participate individually or
collectively as exhibitors or sponsors of their own meetings within the Forum
framework (and whether or not they wish to sponsor or support the Forum as
a whole). They will include :
- Intergovernmental organizations,
- International associations,
- National organizations and groups,
Both decision-makers concerned with social program formulation and members
of the general public affected by them are invited to participate actively
in the Forum. Their presence, interaction and satisfaction will be a principal
measure of its success.