Hannah Rich, researcher on the SIC project, spoke with Matija Raos from KIKI Innovation Collab host centre in Zagreb, Croatia, run by the Croatian Independent Professionals Association, about her experience on the project so far.
How do you feel the process has gone so far?
It’s been a really interesting journey for us because of having the freedom and flexibility to design and prepare the innovation programme with our community. The high level of flexibility is great but it also brings challenges; when you have more freedom, you have to think about more aspects and take more risks. We structured it as two events followed by a mentorship programme; first the ‘co-defining the challenge’ event then the co-creation events which we ran jointly with the City of Zagreb. It was a new experience for us, but one which we hope will help us develop smart solutions and promote social innovation among our members and creative professionals.
What are the key things you’ve learned already?
You need to be open to improvisation with the SI tools, adapting them during the events. For example, sometimes you have to give people more time to finish what they’ve started.
It’s also very important to bring together stakeholders from a range of sectors and backgrounds at the co-define event. It makes the dialogue much more interesting and leads to better results. Everyone who came was excited because it wasn’t just a dialogue between independent professionals, but also with educational institutions, policy-makers, businesses and NGOs.
We also learned a lot from the openness of working in collaboration with the municipality to run our second event. Those who came to the event from our side felt much more empowered because they had the chance to talk to representatives directly. It was a genuinely open process, which doesn’t happen every day.
What would you do differently?
I think we would focus more on fine tuning the process of application and selection of participants in the programme. We had a lot of applications for our events and we wanted to accept as many as possible, but perhaps it would have been better to focus more closely on fewer individuals. Maybe have a slightly stricter registration process too, because we found out how important it is to keep motivation among the teams we created artificially. Perhaps we could have invited fewer people but focussed more on creating the groups.
What has been the best moment of the process for you?
It’s amazing to watch the creation of good ideas and feel the positive energy of people who want to take the opportunity to create solutions together. We had a moment where people came together and focussed on how to tackle our everyday problems and think about solutions rather than just what doesn’t work in the system. For me, this constructive way of thinking has been the most positive thing about the whole process.
Also, working with the international partners and learning from them has been important, because we’ve been able to talk to others whenever we’ve had questions or issues during the experimentation. It’s been good to understand how other people have approached experimentation in their own local context; to see how similar approaches can lead to so many different challenges, different solutions and different events. You can approach this process from so many different points of views, using different tools from the SIC toolkit.
The human aspect of it – meeting people face to face rather than just exchanging emails – has been a real benefit at the learning exchange event in Zagreb. There’s been an amazing energy within the group of host centres. We’ve shared case studies, experiences, solutions and ideas which will benefit all of our different communities.
What stands out to you as the most challenging moment?
Trying to fit almost 70 people in a room and facilitate group activities – it was a really ambitious collaboration with the city of Zagreb! It was a challenge to keep everyone focussed. But people really came together and there was so much positive energy in the room. It was also a process of discovering how you can connect city officials with creative professionals; people who are used to strict rules and things being set in stone together with others who are spontaneous and much more communicative; making the connection between the formal and the informal.
Describe the project in 3 words.
People, participation and flexibility.
People are the most important – it’s great to see our members being passionate and active in solving collaboratively their own problems.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I think it’s really important to educate freelancers and creative professionals to take responsibility for creating a better future for themselves. We all need to promote as much as possible the mind-set of doing things together for mutual benefit.