By Flor Avelino, Derk Loorbach, Julia Wittmayer, Chiao-Jou Lin, Nilufar Bulut
In these times of transition and uncertainty people long for new positive futures. They often look to established institutions and traditional leaders but these seem to be unable to break away from existing power structures, an unsustainable economic model and ineffective policy approaches. With the Manifesto for Transformative Social Innovation we want to redirect attention to the emerging movement of transformative social innovation: communities and individuals across the world that are making change on the ground. This movement is diverse, globally connected and transformative. Their concrete actions give rise to new approaches to e.g. housing, energy, food, mobility, economy and social cohesion. This movement so far is largely below the radar of policy and media at the national and global level but offers a very inspiring and powerful alternative to the bleak futures painted by current geopolitical tensions, populism and austerity policies. This Manifesto aims to demonstrate the enormous potential of transformative social innovation, and more importantly, it calls upon activists, entrepreneurs, policy-makers and researchers to empower, diffuse and broaden this movement towards more sustainable, just and resilient futures.
This is a manifesto ‘in-the-making’. It is written by and for activists, entrepreneurs, policy-makers, citizens, critical intellectuals and other engaged individuals who are interested in understanding and contributing to social change to face the challenges of our times and to imagine alternative futures. The aim of this document is to unite those people, to identify complementarities, differences, common insights and challenges. The purpose of doing so is to formulate a common call for action to create focus and momentum for collaboration. To this end, this manifesto also deliberates what we mean by ‘transformative’ and ‘social’ innovation, what it has to offer and what sets it apart from other types of change or innovation. We call this manifesto in the making a “version 0.1” because it aims to function as a start for discussion and deliberation, where we invite people to adapt the manifesto according to their own local contexts (see here).
The Manifesto for Transformative Social Innovation Version 0.1 has been written by people involved in a number of networks, initiatives and research groups that focus on initiating, facilitating and/or understanding transformative change and social innovation towards more sustainable, just and resilient societies. Between 2014 and 2017 we collaborated in the TRANSIT research project. During these 4 years, a group of over 25 researchers studied 20 translocal networks, including over 100 initiatives spread across 25+ countries, mostly in Europe, Latin-America and a few other countries. Several hundreds of people involved in these initiatives and networks have cooperated with interviews, shared documents and welcomed researchers to participate in meetings and activities of these movements. This manifesto is inspired by insights, examples and experiences from these networks and initiatives. A more comprehensive overview and summary of all networks and initiatives under study, including the research methods used, is provided here.
On the 14-15th of September, TRANSIT’s final conference "Learning for Change" took place in Rotterdam, where there was a gathering of researchers, activists, entrepreneurs, policy-makers and other individuals who share an interest in social change. The idea of a manifesto was used as an entry point to share, compare and debate thoughts and experiences on the delights and challenges of transformative social innovation. Several versions of the manifesto were shared before and after the event, and people were invited to provide input during multiple feedback rounds. The result is this “version 0.1” that we share with the world in the hope that other people feel called and triggered by this movement. We entertain no illusions of having ready-made solutions or final answers to global challenges, neither do we claim that our ideas and experiences will call an end to all structural power inequalities. We do, however, maintain that there exist a multitude of well-considered and demonstrably viable responses to societal challenges, which provide constructive answers and alternatives to the political turmoil of our times.
The TRANSIT project provided an opportunity to spark this manifesto, and the Learning for Change conference lit a flame of people gathering to discuss and share insights on social change. We hope that this manifesto can help us keep that flame alive, spark more flames around the world, and maybe, who knows, set on fire a translocal movement for transformative social change.
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