Diving into social innovation in Basque country and Portugal

The visits to the Iberian partners of the SIKE project took place between 11 and 15 March 2019.  The entire consortium had the opportunity to learn about the case studies located in Bilbao, Lisbon, and Aveiro. In this same context, the University of Aveiro, in partnership with the Santa Casa da Misericórdia of Lisbon, organised. on March 13, a larger public event, which took place in Lisbon, at Casa do Impacto, and was attended by Louise Pulford of the SIX (Social Innovation Exchange).

With the following blog, we wish to share the story of these exciting days of diving into social innovation in the Basque country and Portugal to explore the role of knowledge exchange and collaboration in the interest of uniting efforts and enable social impact.

Starting officially on Monday 11, with the Site Visit to Bilbao, this set of actions started with the presentation of the experiences of Social Innovation in the Basque ecosystem, with the introduction and moderation of Garbiñe Henry and Vanessa Angulo of Deusto University and debate with the contribution of Josean Rodriguez – Manager of the Forum of Entrepreneurs of Adegi, Gotzon Bernaola – Director of Innobasque Public Innovation, Cristina San Salvador del Valle – Responsible for Social Impact at the BBK Foundation and Jordi Albareda – Director and Founder of Fair Saturday .


The same day, in the afternoon, the MEDEA (Dual Master in Entrepreneurship In Action) case study was presented with the following topics: The reason for choosing MEDEA as the main case study of the Basque Country – Roberta Vicente, MEDEA from an academic perspective – Janire Gordon – Academic Learning Facilitator, MEDEA from the perspective of partner companies – Oscar Villanueva – Head of Innovation at Petronor Innovation and Learning Facilitator of the Company and MEDEA from the point of view of one participant – Ana Victoria Vázquez.

On Tuesday, the Koopera Social Training Center was visited, followed by a brief introduction of its history, structure and main activities with room for questions from SIKE project partners. In order to get a better understanding of the Koopera project and its impact, a Koopera store was visited in Bilbao, reserving space and time for a better understanding of the initiative.


After traveling to Portugal, the partners of the SIKE project had the opportunity to participate, on the 13th, in the morning, in an event entitled “The future of Social Innovation – Strengthening the ecosystems through knowledge alliances” at Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa. As host, Gustavo Freitas welcomed all the participants taking the opportunity to present some of the work that this facility of the Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa develops. Subsequently, as an introduction and framework for the SIKE project at the event, Rose Cawood, of Glasgow Caledonian University, presented the foundation and objectives of the project to all the participants, making known to all non-members of the consortium the set of activities that are to be developed.


The event was attended by Louise Pulford of the SIX (Social Innovation Exchange), who spoke on the theme “The development of social innovation ecosystems: the next 10 years”. Subsequent to this presentation, a debate began, under the theme “How can social innovators and entrepreneurs achieve greater social impact through cross-sectoral knowledge exchange?”. This session was attended by Inês Sequeira, Executive Director of Casa do Impacto and Director of Investment and Social Innovation – Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa; Ana Lehmann, Professor of the Faculty of Economics and Management of the University of Porto and President of the Investment Committee of the Social Innovation Fund – Portugal Social Innovation; Paulo Soeiro de Carvalho, founder of “IF Insight & Foresight” and Professor of Strategic Prospects and Innovation at the School of Economics and Management of Lisbon – University of Lisbon; Dmitri Domanski, researcher and professor at the Center for Social Research at TU Dortmund University and co-founder of the European School of Social Innovation; Helena Canhão, Medical Director in the Patient Innovation and Professor of the NOVA School of Medicine – NOVA University in Lisbon; counting with the moderation of Teresa Franqueira, professor at the University of Aveiro and coordinator of the Design Factory of the PCI · Creative Science Park.

After a networking lunch, there were presentations of case studies and good practices from the initiatives “A Avó Veio Trabalhar”, by Designer Susana António, and “Refood” by Hunter Halder, the respective founders of each of the initiatives. In these two presentations the project structure, the origins of the idea, its impact and the network of stakeholders involved became known. Afterward, the “A Avó Veio Trabalhar” workspace was visited, where it was possible to perceive the organization and dynamism of the work developed.

On Thursday, the 14th, the partners of the SIKE project consortium travelled from Lisbon to Aveiro and started activities in this city in the afternoon. These began with a visit to Refood’s operations center in Aveiro, with the collaboration of Elisa Mendes, one of the responsible for the correct functioning of the same center, which presented the activities developed, clarified doubts and accompanied the team in the exploration of the space. The session continued with a presentation by IRIS – Regional Incubator of Social Innovation, already in the academic acts room of the University of Aveiro. This presentation was given by one of the project’s managers, Liliana Ribeiro, who is simultaneously a member of the SIKE National Advisory and Evaluation Committee. Later that afternoon there was the opportunity for a guided visit to the Design Factory Aveiro of the PCI – Creative Science Park, which was in charge of Professor Teresa Franqueira. Also, at this site there were presentations of the Fava project, another case study selected for monitoring, and a set of civic participation initiatives in the city of Aveiro, which was in charge of Professor José Carlos Mota.


On the last day of the Site Visit program in Portugal, there was a trip to Lousã to meet the social incubator Microninho. This incubator is an initiative which, in the context of the SIKE project, is understood as a good practice in itself, but which, however, is still responsible for many interesting and impactful cases of Social Innovation and that we have had the opportunity to know. As in the case of IRIS, the head of Microninho, Liliana Simões, is also a member of the Advisory and Evaluation Committee of SIKE.

In general, these visits were an enriching experience, showing the dynamism and the set of initiatives of the kind happening in the Iberian Peninsula and that the SIKE project is following closely.

SIKE site visit in Germany

From the 4th to the 7th of February, SIKE project partners from Croatia, Portugal, Scotland and Spain were welcomed in Dortmund, Germany in order to reflect on current and future developments of the project and to learn about social innovation in the Ruhr Region and the federal state North Rhine-Westphalia. The first half of the event organized by the partnering Technical University Dortmund took place in the Social Research Center (sfs).
On Monday, an extra day was scheduled in order to have a gathering of consortium members to discuss content of site visits and training programmes as well as the SIKE Unit blueprints.

For the second day, a variety of experienced speakers were invited such as Prof. Jürgen Howaldt, director of the Social Research Centre (sfs) of TU Dortmund University, who reflected on the role of academia in social innovation. In order to do so, he shared the main findings from the project SI-DRIVE. Mark Anderson, director of Research and Innovation at Glasgow Caledonian University as well as project coordinator of SIKE, presented the experience of his university which includes numerous Erasmus+ projects in the area of social innovation, such as LASIN  and SEASIN. The initiative KoSI-Lab was introduced by Eva Wascher from TU Dortmund University and Arne Elias from the City of Dortmund Economic Development Agency. Additionally, Dirk Johann (Catholic University of Applied Sciences Cologne) and Jens Koller (Protestant University of Applied Sciences) described how the “Network for Transfer and Social Innovation – s_inn” makes a strong contribution to regional development, focussing on the third mission. From a practitioners’ view, Theresa Zöckler of the inclusive Social Impact Lab Bonn talked about her organisation’s work in the field of social innovation. Furthermore, Javier Finez of Business Innovation Brokers gave an insight of the social innovation ecosystem in the Basque Country.

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After the qualified input, the event concluded with an interactive workshop encouraging all participants to have a lively exchange of thoughts and discussions on how to improve knowledge exchange between different academic and societal spheres regarding social innovation.
While addressing this, the main focus lay on the three missions of universities (teaching, research and the third mission) as well as the benefits of direct exchange between practitioners and higher education institutes.




PIKSL as the host of a workshop for the international SIKE-Team in Düsseldorf
On the following Wednesday, the site visit continued in the PIKSL (Person-centered interaction & communication for more self-determination in life) Lab Düsseldorf.
The PIKSL project was initiated in 2010 by the Düsseldorf based “In der Gemeinde leben gGmbH” (IGL). The aim of the project is to provide barrier-free access to modern information technologies and media for people with digital educational needs. Therefore, PIKSL brings together people with and without disabilities in its laboratories in Düsseldorf and Bielefeld to jointly develop products and services. People with learning difficulties are actively involved in problem solution and innovation processes. They are the experts in reducing the complexity of digital content. PIKSL cooperates with higher Education Institutions as well as economic partners.


The hosts of the PIKSL project around Marius Mews and Tobias Marczinzik invited to the workshop operated by Jennifer Eckhardt and Christoph Kaletka of TU Dortmund University to share experiences and perspectives. The key subject of the workshop were in particular the highlighting of similarities around the aspect of co-creation as well as the efforts to scale and disseminate socially innovative initiatives. The possibilities and limitations of the presentation of social impact within the framework of special business reports and the potentials of science and practice collaborations were points of mutual interest in the lively discussions.



SIKE visits Nordwärts
Finally, on February 7th, the members of the SIKE project paid a visit to the initiative “Nordwärts”. Harriet Ellwein from the municipality of Dortmund, which is running Nordwärts, introduced the initiative and presented the structure and general concept. It aims to strengthen especially the socially as well as economically challenged city districts in the northern part of the city of Dortmund.

Nordwärts functions as the first contact place for citizens and their concrete ideas for improvement. The initiative develops concepts with them, provides a citywide network of possible supporters and is looking for a sustainable way to finance this projects.
Afterwards, the project partners had the opportunity to ask questions and to learn how cooperation with HEIs can contribute to the development of such a local initiative incorporated into the public body.


To conclude the German site visit, all partners had a meeting reflecting on the last four days, the challenges and opportunities offered for each region and the SIKE project in general.
The site visit to North Rhine-Westphalia revealed similarities between the participating regions, demonstrated the potential of generally applicable concepts and helped to develop the international social innovation community. The next site visit in the SIKE project will take place in Spain and in Portugal in March.

More detailed information about PIKSL and Nordwärts can be found on the SIKE website in the “resources – case studies – Germany” section.


Dmitri Domanski (TU Dortmund University)
Patrick Oberberg (Social Impact)