Barcelona summit explores digital social innovation

On 4-5 October, over 150 participants representing 92 organisations from 26 countries gathered in the beautiful CaixaForum in Barcelona for the ALL DIGITAL Summit 2017. The event under the title ‘Digital Skills for Social Innovation’ was hosted by El Teb, in collaboration with Generalitat de Catalunya and Esplai Foundation. It was supported by laCaixa Foundation, City Council of Barcelona, GSMA Mobile World Capital, HP, and Telapolis.

This 10th annual event, organized by ALL DIGITAL (formerly Telecentre-Europe) turned out to be the largest in number of participants, experts and topics: for 155 participants, 23 plenary and interactive sessions were offered, with 48 speakers and moderators.

Our participants came from various backgrounds – NGOs, education, public authorities, industry, policy makers and consequently had diverse interests, which we tried to satisfy in the numerous discussions and sessions. We always attempt to vary the formats and show the different ways of working with the audience, during both the plenary and group sessions, striving to make the experience as engaging and interactive as possible.

The Summit was opened by welcome speeches from ALL DIGITAL CEO Laurentiu Bunescu, Chair of the Board Mara Jakobsone, and project manager of the host organisation El Teb Esther Subias.

In the special video message Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport Tibor Navracsics commended on the excellent work of the ALL DIGITAL network members who altogether reach 3 million people per year.

In order to use technology for social good, people need better digital skills. The digital age should empower and benefit all people not just the privileged few. Your organisations are crucial to help us reach this goal. Your model is unique in bringing digital world to those who feel excluded from it. Through your many centres in Europe you are instrumental in closing this gap and providing everyone with high quality digital skills and using them as a vector of integration.’

Commissioner Navracsics highlighted the work that many organisations are doing in digital skills for girls and women, as the technology sector would benefit greatly if it made the most of women’s skills and talents.

The Summit in Barcelona took place during the Catalan independence referendum and its subsequent political turmoil, and as a result the event was given an added urgency and relevance. The keynote speakers talked passionately about the power of digital skills to enable civic engagement and social harmony, and how digital social innovation needs to respond to societal needs and can present a wide array of solutions to the pressing problems that citizens face.

IMG_0050_ThereseTherese Jamaa, general manager of GSMA Mobile World Capital, shared the most important lesson she had learned during her many years of experience in development and social responsibility projects with mobile technology: whatever projects for digital inclusion we undertake, we need to start from the actual needs of the people we are addressing. Even if we have the best idea in mind, even if we think that this is the thing that’s going to change the world, we should first try to understand the local context and prepare the ground.

IMG_0838_SarahSara Harmon, LinkedIn country manager for Spain and Portugal, took us on a journey to the job market of the near future and reminded us that digital transformation may mean that some jobs will be automated, but new ones will be created, too. And that digital technologies allow us to discover and take advantage of hidden talent pools, which may otherwise have been left unnoticed. (video)

IMG_0875_fabrizioFabrizio Sestini from DG CONNECT of the European Commission spoke about the current priorities of EU digital policy such as decentralisation of data governance, tools for democratic participation and citizens’ engagement, and the main components of digital social innovation according to the digital social innovation manifesto. (video)

IMG_0108_dougDoug Belshaw, educational expert and consultant in using technology more effectively, talked about the future infrastructure, future skills and future mind-sets we need to integrate technology successfully in our lives and be in control. Starting from the notion that “we are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works” he went on to remind us that decentralisation is the key to make sure that the Internet is democratic and pluralistic, and even challenged us to imagine a world where people will be able to create digital nations. (video)

The interactive sessions asked delegates to consider how they could use new concepts, platforms and models to better engage or support citizens. Delegates were invited to provide feedback and contribute to developing these new models for digital skills support and delivery, while in networking sessions, new partnerships were conceived and evolved.

After the plenary sessions the delegates had a chance to explore the different aspects of digital social innovation in the parallel group discussions. That was the largest parallel session ever held in our summits, with 8 topics at once run twice, so each delegate could attend 2 topics of their interest:

  • Co-creation, co-generation of content and knowledge
  • DigComp, the European Digital Competence Framework for citizens
  • Coding for social inclusion
  • Collaborative opportunities on the social Internet, collaborative economy
  • Open culture and innovation
  • Digital manufacturing tools
  • Ubiquitous, Mobile and IoT technologies in support of STEM Education: a new business opportunity
  • Digital cultural heritage

Learn more about the discussions

These interactive sessions were followed by the How-to workshops to offer the practical knowledge in a particular topic from how to empower young e-facilitators and enable disadvantaged groups to become prosumers to brining coding to kids, using open badges, and UMI technology. It was NOT easy to choose just one topic! You can learn more about the workshops from the following blogposts:

The scene for Day II was set by two keynote speakers:

IMG_1745_ismaelIsmael Peña-López, Lecturer at the Open University of Catalonia, discussed how digital technologies affect different areas of our lives such as health, energy, health, economy, learning, culture and democracy, and how, if used in a democratic way, they can help all of us to become drivers of social change and achieve not only freedom (lack of constraints) and empowerment (capabilities), but also governance over the system.

IMG_0318_mattMatt Stokes from NESTA (UK’s innovation foundation) showed some remarkable examples of using technologies to solve societal issues such as Fixmystreet, a platform which exists in a number of cities including London and Brussels, allowing anyone to take a photo of a problem and send it directly to their local authority. He underlined that supporting grass root initiatives for social innovation using digital technologies is as important as advancing in cutting edge technologies such as blockchain or the next generation of internet. All of this should walk hand in hand with making sure that all citizens have the necessary skills to benefit from technological development, because if digital social innovation isn’t inclusive, it isn’t digital social innovation.(video)

After the keynotes, there was a panel discussion on Coding for inclusion and effective use of mobile devices hosted by CodeMob project, where the four experts shared their experiences on the topic and discussed the approaches on how to improve the user engagement and practice. Learn more about the discussion and watch the video


The Project Lightning Talks session was very much anticipated as it was one of the most popular formats last year. Not easy on the presenters, but captivating for the audience, eight different projects were showcased in the 5-minute lightning talks of a very strict format with automatically changing slides. The talks were followed by five minutes of questions and answers each, and the audience was quite active. In this session, honest lessons learned  were shared and those projects successes celebrated. (video)

All in all, there were two very intensive days of discussions, exploration, discovery, networking and… finding the right rooms in the CaixaForum. At the end of the first day, the ALL DIGITAL Awards and 10 Year Celebration was held in the funky Paraguai creativa space in the Poblenou district, famous for start-ups and innovation. And the second day was concluded with the Innovation tour of the Poblenou district to show how the abandoned dilapidated area turned into the vibrant tech neighbourhood.

See the photos from the event in our PHOTOS section

We thank all our participants, speakers, experts, moderators for your contribution, and we hope to see many of you at our ALL DIGITAL Summit 2018!