March 2022
This is the third edition of the SE4Ces European project newsletter.
Project meetings
      First consortium meeting
Living Labs launched
      The UK Living Lab Experience
WIKI platform
      Next steps
Guest article
     LLs for sustainability in HEIs
Participation to upcoming events
     Strasbourg, Future of the SE
     ICA CCR Research Conference
First consortium meeting in Thessaloniki.
On April 7 the consortium was invited by project leaders of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki for a first hybrid and thus partially in-person meeting. Partners were hosted by local Greek cooperatives Nice Dépôt and Rediviva Cucina Povera in the beautiful centre of Thessaloniki. 

Highlights of the discussed topics were the review of the Living Labs methodologies and the preparation and discussion for the implementation of upcoming local co-creation workshops. These sessions are to be held through a role-playing activity in 4 pilot countries and should result in the co-development of an educational package and the creation of a master’s programme on Social Economy (SE).

At this meeting, partners were invit
ed to participate in one of the brainstorming methodologies to show off their best acting skills (and which resulted in some fantastic photo and video material)! We would like to thank everyone for their enthusiastic involvement in the activities and we're sure to have set a great baseline for the upcoming co-creation workshops.


Picture of the Living Lab in Italy.

Start of the co-creation phase
Based on hard work and several discussions in an actual co-creation process, project partners finalized the methodology for our Living Labs and we carried out the first Labs in Greece, the UK, Italy, and Spain. We used the Living Labs approach to bring together SE educators, students, and organizations to co-design the SE 4Ces educational material.

To understand better what a  Living Lab (LL)
 actually is visit our website via this link.

How did we go about collecting input from participants?

A challenging step in the process was to structure the educational material in a clear way. We thought of specific topics that should be of interest considering also the needs analysis that we carried out in the project: 
  1. Running a SE enterprise
  2. Cultivating skills for contributing to SE 
  3. Support structure for SE
  4. Creating and assessing value/impact
We discussed these topics in detail with Social Economy (SE) educators, students, and SE organizations based on their experiences and knowledge. The two key questions they helped us answer were:
  • Is any important topic missing? What can be intriguing questions that will trigger people to learn more about and get educated on Social Economy? 
  • How will the results of the LLs inform the next steps?
To test our methodology, we first organized a mock-up living lab. This has been instrumental in refining our methodology and in helping us realize how the results of the living labs would inform the next steps of the project and the SE4Ces educational material itself. 

Discover more about the first mock Living Lab here.

Screenshot of the Living Lab in Greece

The UK Living Lab experience

The UK Living Lab took place on the 8th of March and gathered 8 SE educators, practitioners and students around a discussion of 4 key themes mentioned in the chapter above. These broad themes generated some fascinating discussion that built on issues identified in a previous stage of the project (needs analysis report) in particular, it highlighted  the need to:
  1. to conceptualise and contextualise the social economy in order to understand its broad reach and diversity,
  2. to develop university programmes at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels to promote the visibility of the SE as well as the skills and knowledge available in the sector, a strength. This is a point that was clearly highlighted in discussions of the importance of networking across sectors, of speaking ‘different languages’, of mixing different methods of value assessment, or of having to operate with different, maybe conflicting, objectives and interest groups.
  3. to provide a balance of hard skills (in for example accounting, finance, business plans, marketing) and soft skills (relational skills related to teamwork, leadership, communication but also skills related to managing tensions, conflicts, and the ability to deal with different interest groups),
  4. develop and strengthen the SE network and support infrastructure, with universities having a central role in this initiative and in building bridges and networks across stakeholders,
  5. to use multiple methods and involve different stakeholders to reconceptualize value beyond an economic-centric focus.
One common theme that transpires throughout these issues and that was also highlighted in the needs analysis is the importance to develop the SE sector’s adaptability so that it can work across sectors, contexts, stakeholder groups and transforms this diversity into a strength. This is a point that was clearly highlighted in discussions of the importance of networking across sectors, of speaking ‘different languages’, of mixing different methods of value assessment, or of having to operate with different, maybe conflicting, objectives and interest groups.

Wiki platform next steps.

The wiki platform that is covered in work package 6 is an essential part of the SE4Ces project. It is not only the main place where the co-created materials of the project will be published but it is also meant to be a core point of reference for SE education around the globe.

In the first steps of the project, the consortium carefully examined all the available digital platforms that could support the project's objectives:

  • how to share digital content and facilitate daily communication between its different users,
  • how to achieve a decentralized, democratically governed, and open crowdsourcing procedure for enriching the content of the platform, 
  • how to organize all these materials in a visually appealing, easily accessible, and intuitive manner that will also be safe and compatible with all the modern security requirements.
Media wiki was selected for its memorable trustworthiness, open-access character as well as the level of customization.

In the second phase of the project, the group came together and collectively brainstormed about the basic attributes and ways the content should be organized in the wiki platform. This truly collaborative process highlighted some of the elements that we would like to see from such a project: openness, organic growth, community and user friendly, adaptive, connecting, and long-lasting were only a few among them.

Finally, we decided that we would like to see a series of different themes appear in the platform’s structure, most notably, sections dedicated to
a) non-formal educational techniques and good practices,
b) research on Social Economy,
c) practical steps and legal advice on how to start a SE organization in different countries/contexts,
d) forums and networking possibilities, and finally how SE is organized in non-European contexts.

We are currently running the third phase of the project in which the platform is being designed and tested before its official launch.     

Living Labs for Sustainability in Higher Education Institutions.

By Elena Barison

Since the popularization of the Living Lab method in research communities, its concept has been widely used and evolved into an array of different definitions, methodologies, and applications. The European Network for Living Labs conceptualized an umbrella definition that is still commonly used among researchers in the field. But what does it really mean to be holding a Living Lab in a 2022 research context? 

In fact, Living Labs are based on the strong involvement of stakeholders and are founded on the adoption of a transdisciplinary approach to connect different knowledge areas, contexts, and perspectives. They are considered a form of a multistakeholder governance approach that leads to inclusive co-production processes for strategic and comprehensive solutions. 

Thanks to co-creation processes taking place in Living Labs, a community can participate in social innovation and eventually promote the development of new products and services to answer to unmet social needs. In this sense, Living Labs should be considered ‘social’ in both their goals and their means. As a matter of fact, the Living Labs give people, including researchers, the chance to face real-world sustainability challenges that nowadays dominate socio-political and even scientific communities.

Often overlooked but Living Labs can also be adopted to enhance sustainability in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs.) Usually, this happens from three perspectives. The first perspective frames the Living Lab as spaces where students, academic staff, and stakeholders can co-create knowledge in an innovative and creative learning environment. The second perspective focuses on adopting the Living Labs approach to fuel the transformation of the conventional campus into a sustainable campus and enhance campuses’ sustainability initiatives. The third perspective on Living Labs in HEIs refers to teaching and learning sustainability science through Living Labs and to the promotion of transversal knowledge and skills on sustainability. 

We can conclude that Living Labs are implemented in HEIs to pursue social innovation for sustainability. This represents an important shift because HEIs are no longer simply contributing to economic and societal development via knowledge transfer, but they are actually transforming and co-creating solutions to pursue sustainable development. Furthermore, Living Labs represent the opportunity for HEIs to update their educational methods. In fact, by implementing Living Labs as learning environments, they enhance the adoption of real-world learning opportunities, collaborative teaching, and co-creation of knowledge. 


SE4Ces at the Strasbourg event for the Future of the Social Economy.

On 5 and 6 May 2022, the SE4Ces consortium will be present at the Youth Village of the Strasbourg event for the future of the social economy to host an interactive workshop about the co-creation of social economy education materials.

Youth entrepreneurs and other participants active in the social economy will get involved in a highly interactive and stimulating brainstorming exercise. The purpose is to get creative and to discover together the themes and discussions that spark the interest of young social economy entrepreneurs. Together we will look for new perspectives in social economy education and explore some interesting narratives that could lead the way.

This event is an excellent opportunity for us to showcase the Living Lab experiences as part of a larger framework of the project. It is organized by and in the context of the French Presidency of the Council of the EU together with the institutions and leading social economy actors. More info on the event website here.

Register for the event here.

ICA CCR European Research Conference - Athens 2022

Partners will attend the ICA CCR Europe 2022 Rethinking cooperatives: From local to global and from the past to the future” (The International Cooperative Alliance Committee on Cooperative Research). It is the annual research conference of the European section of the International Cooperative Alliance, and will be held on July 13-15 in Greece under the auspices of Panteion University with the support of the University of Western Macedonia, University of Patras, the Hellenic Open University, and the educational non-profit cooperative “People’s University of Social and Solidarity Economy”.

It is a key event in the context of social economy research and innovation and even more so in the context of changing and emerging identity for cooperatives. New strategic challenges and visions for cooperatives will be explored and debated. We encourage fellow researchers, and interested policymakers to attend with us this event.

More info here.

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