Hannah Rich from the Young Foundation caught up with Oliver and Agnes from Pärnu Community Fund, the host centre in Estonia, to talk about their experiences of the SIC experimentation process so far.
Through SIC, we have been working to use social innovation tools and methodologies to co-create solutions to the challenges faced by Pärnu in encouraging young people to stay rather than moving to bigger cities. So far, two teams of social entrepreneurs have been able to develop their ideas about how to encourage businesses and startups in the city. One of the teams is planning a TedX event later this year.
How do you feel the process as a whole has gone so far?
A: For me, it’s been a very positive experience because everything has been really structured and the communication has been great. If we’ve needed help, the contact with The Young Foundation as our support partners has been fast.
O: From the perspective of our organisation, we’ve been trying to set up a co-working space in Pärnu. Without the SIC project, we would never have run the co-creation event but because of that co-creation event, we’ve now got the whole city behind our co-working space and behind us as an organisation. We’ve been funded by the city and there are already people who have come back to Pärnu from other cities as a result it, because they see that stuff is happening here. So I think there’s been a big impact already.
A: Another very important part is that when we ran the second co-creation event, there were representatives from the city council there like the mayor and the deputy mayor. We were able to show them a really positive example, a really positive way of doing things fast and doing things well.
O: I think the tools of SIC were key as well, because the whole three day event was built on the tools. There were structures and materials provided by SIC which we used, which gave us a lot of knowledge, not only for the one event but for the whole future of our organisation. We’ll be able to use those tools in all our events and everything we do over the next few years.
What has been the best moment of the process for you?
Definitely the co-creation sessions!
What would you do differently about the process?
O: I think we would invite more people to the co-creation events, because we were worried about having too many people but that didn’t happen in the end because some of the people who signed up didn’t come. We had a 30% drop out rate, which is quite high, and we had hoped to have about five or six teams but we ended up with four teams taking part. So I think if we were doing it again, we’d maybe invite more people.
How useful have you found the Learning Exchange Sessions?
O: I think it was good to see the other host centres. For me, it was really surprising to hear that there are other people who are working in a similar co-working space and creating similar things.
A: It was good to know that they also had similar problems to ours as well.
Have you found the language barrier to be an issue?
A: With the language, not really because almost everyone in Estonia speaks English. There have been a few difficulties with explanation sometimes.
O: For example, one of the guys who came to our co-creation event was used to pitching in English because he’d worked in San Francisco, where his company have been creating virtual reality equipment. Although he’s from Pärnu, he was more confident and more familiar with talking about his work in English and everyone else was happy with that.
Have there been any cultural barriers, working with the SI tools in Estonia?
O: Not particularly. We knew some of the methods and tools already, but we’d used them in a different way. But I don’t think that was because of the cultural barrier as such, I think it was more because of the shift from entrepreneurship to social innovation.
If you had to describe the process in 3 words, what would you say?
O: Supportive would definitely be one of them.
A: Spontaneous… we’ve made lots of changes to our organisation.
O: Maybe spontaneous isn’t quite the word – I mean starting with something and ending up with something else. For example, one of the teams came in with they thought was a really strong idea but now they’re organising a TedX event, which is really cool but it wasn’t what they planned in the beginning.
A: Surprising, maybe. Is there a word in English which is somewhere between spontaneous and change? Because that, for me, sums up the whole process.