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[Event Review] Black Sea International Workshop: “Promotion of Social, Sustainable and Frugal Innovation in the Black Sea Region”

On 2 and 3 of November, 2017, the Applied Research and Communications Fund (ARC Fund) hosted a day and a half international workshop in Sofia, entitled “Promotion of Social, Sustainable and Frugal Innovation in the Black Sea Region”. The workshop was organised within the framework of the “Black Sea Horizon” project and was the first one in a row of two workshops. The second workshop will take place in Tbilisi in the beginning of December 2017 and will be attended by public authorities, NGOs and business agencies.  

[Event Review] Black Sea International Workshop: “Promotion of Social, Sustainable and Frugal Innovation in the Black Sea Region”
  • Posted on: 09.11.2017
  • Bulgaria

Contact: Desislava Asenova,

The event in Sofia brought together 19 participants representing companies, social enterprises, civil society organisations and universities from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Austria, Bulgaria, Georgia, Germany, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. The aim of the workshop was to promote social, sustainable and frugal innovation among participants on the one hand, and on the other hand to derive policy-relevant messages during discussions on drivers and barriers, as well as opportunities and challenges of concrete innovation practices which were presented during the workshop.

The event was organised around three sessions with presentations and group work activities. The three sessions followed the same format – they started with a presentation on the pertinent characteristics of each of the three innovation types (sustainable, frugal or social) which was followed by presentations of concrete innovation practices. After each block of presentations the participants worked in break-out groups to identify drivers, barriers, challenges and opportunities and formulate policy-relevant recommendations for each of the three types of innovation. The first session was focused on the topic of Sustainable Innovation, the second session was focused on Frugal Innovation and the third one – on Social Innovation. At the end of the second day all participants voted for five cases from the ones presented during the event that they found most relevant to the Black Sea region and they would recommend to be presented to the policy makers in Tbilisi.

Prior to the event, a catalogue was compiled with short information on the innovation practices/projects to be presented during the workshop and was disseminated among participants. The pack of materials disseminated during the event also included information materials and reports developed as part of the three projects presented at the beginning of each session:

  • CASI: Public participation in developing a common framework for the assessment and management of sustainable innovation, supported under FP7 (Sustainable Innovation session)
  • INDIGO POLICY: Support for the advancement of policy cooperation between India and Europe in Research and Innovation, supported under FP7 (Frugal Innovation session)
  • SI-Drive: Social Innovation – Driving Force of Social Change, supported under FP7 (Social Innovation session).

The workshop was opened by Ms. Zoya Damianova, Programme Director of ARC Fund. She welcomed the participants and explained the purpose of the meeting as well as the agenda. Then, the BSH project was presented by Mr. Martin Felix Gajdusek from ZSI (Austria) who is the project coordinator. He provided an overview of the project with its key objectives, duration, and partners, as well as more detailed information on the Black Sea Cooperation Programme that has been developed as part of the BSH project.  

The first session on Sustainable Innovation was opened by Ms. Zoya Damianova presenting the CASI project that addressed the topic of sustainable innovation and was coordinated by ARC Fund. The main objectives of the project were presented together with methodologies applied, its major results and the working definitions of sustainable innovation that were developed within the project. What followed was a set of 4 participants’ presentations related to sustainable innovation practices and sustainability in general. The first one to present was Ms. Maria Alexandrova from Cleantech Bulgaria. After presenting briefly the mission, activities and initiatives of Cleantech Bulgaria, Ms. Alexandrova introduced in more details the Climate KIC-Accelerator which is the largest European entrepreneurial initiative for clean technologies to tackle climate change and at the same time is one of the main initiatives of Cleantech Bulgaria. Next to present was Ms. Olha Truten from Ukraine. She presented the concept of Greencubator which is a social startup and a platform for connecting energy talents and for driving green entrepreneurship. Ms. Truten also talked about the wide range of activities that Greencubator is involved in, such as “Greencubator TeslaCamp”, “Hack4energy”, “Greencubator Media School”, “Climate Innovation Vouchers”, “Energy Heroes” and “Climate Launchpad Ukraine”. The third presentation was delivered by Ms. Anastasia Tsvetkova from Russia. Her presentation was focused on the Lake Baikal Foundation which is a private charitable organisation uniting all parties engaged with preserving and developing the Baikal natural territory and Lake Baikal. She presented the Foundation’s main activity areas together with a few examples of ongoing projects. The last one to present was Mr. Olcay Silahli from Turkey who talked about a surplus management system for retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers called “Fazla Gida” (“Whole Surplus”) that he has developed.

The session was concluded with a group work activity. Participants were divided in three groups and each group came up with a list of drivers, barriers, challenges and opportunities related to sustainable innovation as well as with a list of policy-relevant recommendations. At the end groups presented the policy-relevant messages in plenary. Some examples of the policy-relevant messages that emerged in result of the group work are:

  • Policy-delivering agencies need to be provided with relevant instruments for supporting sustainable innovation initiatives.
  • It’s necessary to build trust between policy-makers, businesses and civil society in order to establish constructive dialogue and to foster collaboration.
  • Local innovators should be supported as well as synergies between them.
  • Good practices need to be mapped and collected, and then disseminated and promoted.

The second session was focused on Frugal Innovation and was opened with a presentation of Mr. Martin Felix Gajdusek on the concept of frugal innovation together with definitions and examples of frugal innovation practices. He also presented the INDIGO POLICY project (that was coordinated by ZSI) as an example of a project that addresses the topic of frugal innovation. The second set of presentations started with the presentation of Ms. Irina Mania from the Georgian Heritage Crafts Association, Georgia. She presented the Association with its aims and achievements and introduced the concept and the social impact of the Ethnodesign Social Shop which promotes innovative attitude towards the design and craft marketing. The second one to present was Ms. Viorica Cerbusca from Moldova. She started her presentation with brief information on the SME sector and social entrepreneurship in Moldova and continued with presentation of the NIKA Responsible Business Generation, which is a non-governmental organisation that she has founded and that seeks to promote responsible business. The third one to present was Mrs. Iolanda Mihalache from the PartNET Association in Romania which is the Partnership for Sustainable Development. After talking about the main objectives and activities of the Association, Mrs. Mihalache briefly presented few of the projects related to social innovation in the field of health, education and tourism that the PartNET Association is working on.

The second session was also concluded with a group activity with participants being again divided into three groups, discussing drivers, barriers, challenges and opportunities related to the topic of frugal innovation and formulating policy-relevant messages. At the end groups again presented the policy-relevant messages in plenary. Some of the formulated by participants policy-relevant messages related to frugal innovation are:

  • Involve local communities in designing/developing innovative solutions.
  • Empathy and community should be the main drivers for frugal innovations.
  • Frugal innovation initiatives could be considered as a useful tool for creating alternatives and employment diversity in cities that depend on single major job provider.
  • Creative skills are important for frugal innovation development – to be able to produce something that is both low-cost and useful.

The second day of the workshop started with a session on Social Innovation. The session began with a presentation of the SI-Drive project by its coordinator Mr. Antonius Schroeder from the Technical University of Dortmund, Germany. He started with presenting the main objectives of the project, the partners involved and the policy fields addressed in the project. He continued with introducing the theoretical framework and the empirical results generated by the project and concluded with a list of some general remarks regarding the topic of social innovation. He also introduced the working definition of social innovation that was developed within the SI-Drive project. After the presentation of the SI-Drive project, a third set of participants’ presentations followed introducing social innovation projects and practices from Bulgaria, Azerbaijan and Armenia. The first one to present was Ms. Aylin Yumerova from The Bulgarian Centre for Not-for-Profit Law, Bulgaria. She talked about “A HUB” and the “NGO House” which are the new innovative spaces for civil society in Sofia and presented briefly a few of the initiatives and activities of the two community spaces. Next one to present was Mr. Jasur Hasanov from Azerbaijan who presented the Social Innovation Lab of Azerbaijan together with challenges of startup incubators and startup ecosystem in Azerbaijan. He also presented some startup instruments and initiatives. The last one to present was Mr. Areg Tadevosyan from the International Centre for Intercultural Research, Learning and Dialogue, Armenia. He presented a project related to social entrepreneurship and entitled “Community Development through Social Entrepreneurship”. After introducing the main idea behind the project and its objectives, Mr. Tadevosyan introduced the main lessons learned related to social entrepreneurship and social innovation.

The third session on Social Innovation was also concluded with a group work activity with participants discussing drivers, barriers, challenges and opportunities related to social innovation and formulating policy-relevant messages. The messages were again presented in front of all the participants. Some of them are:

  • It is necessary to establish a clear framework/vision for social innovation – what it contains, how it can work, what it should achieve, who are the main actors.
  • Social entrepreneurship or innovation should be recognised as a driver for social change or a tool to solve social problems on a higher policy level.
  • Introduce more effective mechanisms for monitoring the impact of social innovation through existing experiences such as social innovation labs or other established platforms.
  • Social entrepreneurs/innovators and successful practitioners need to be more actively involved in shaping policy decisions.
  • Target groups need to feel that they have the ownership of the innovation process. Local voices need to be heard and included.

At the end of the second day, participants were given the opportunity to vote for five of the innovation projects/practices that were presented during the two-day event that they found the most relevant to the Black Sea region which they would recommend to be presented during the workshop in Tbilisi. The chosen practices/projects were:

  • “Fazla Gida” (Turkey) - Fazla Gida creates technology solutions to help businesses recover value out of food surplus. It provides one-stop waste management platform which includes a unique marketplace for donating surplus inventories, recycling and reselling of surplus and data analytics for reducing waste at the source.
  • “Social Innovation Lab” (Azerbaijan) – It is a leading startup center in Baku that contributes to solving various business and social problems through innovative approaches to build sustainable business models. It aims to enable citizens in Azerbaijan to participate in achieving social and economic progress of the country through entrepreneurship.
  • “Community Development through Social Entrepreneurship” (Armenia) - This project will contribute to a sustainable community development and to enhancing the capacities of civil society organizations (CSOs) in generating income through running social entrepreneurship (SE) projects for the general benefit of the communities in seven regions of Armenia.
  • “Social Shop Ethnodesign” (Georgia) - “Ethnodesign” brings together unique pieces of Georgian handmade ethnic chic products created in the different regions of Georgia. The social shop was founded in 2016 to support the product development and marketing of handmade traditional crafts and employ almost 200 craft makers and their young apprentices from different regions of Georgia, providing the economic profit for their families. The concept store aims to safeguard the local craft traditions through the innovative approach to the design.  

As a result of the workshop a list with drivers, barriers, challenges and opportunities, as well as a list of policy-relevant messages and recommendations regarding each of the three topics discussed – sustainable, frugal and social innovation – were produced. The results will serve as an input to the second workshop on sustainable, frugal and social innovation that will be organised in Tbilisi, Georgia in the beginning of December 2017. They will be presented to public authorities, NGOs and business associations who will be the main target group for the event in Tbilisi. The aim of the workshop will be to present and discuss the issues and recommendations shared by practitioners in the field of social, sustainable and frugal innovation and to evaluate them.

Scientific field: General | Related Topics: BLACK SEA HORIZON, EU-Black Sea Cooperation Programme in STI (BSCP), Research and innovation community, Policy Dialogue, Research and Innovation support Initiatives | Geographical focus: Black Sea Region