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Bridge science and social entrepreneurship to create innovative solutions for local communities threatened by climate change

Create a support program for social entrepreneurs, scientists and local communities to co-design impactful innovations

Photo of Mélanie Marcel
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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

Science as a lever to generate social impact is under-exploited even if scientists’ work is increasingly expected to tackle societal challenges (e.g. SDG’ around energy, health, global warming issues) and answer the needs of communities. Meanwhile, social actors (NGOs or social enterprises) are overlooked in their ability to cooperate with professional researchers, from the private or public sector, in order to co-develop solutions while contributing to innovative products. Nevertheless, many social entrepreneurs are designing great solutions for the people and the planet but their impact could increase dramatically if they partnered with the scientific community and accessed their knowledge to improve their innovations. We are bridging the communities of social entrepreneurs and scientists through a support program allowing them to innovate together and solve targeted communities’ challenges related to climate change. The 18 months program consists in: >Creating a community of practices on a specific challenge (e.g. preserving marine biodiversity and communities resources) composed of scientists, changemakers, and local actors all related to the topic >Matching their skills and their current needs, making several transdisciplinary teams (including beneficiaries), building the necessary trust and defining common goals for the innovation projects. These projects rely on existing social enterprises’ solution and scientists’ works, including local knowledge of targeted communities >Supporting these teams through a follow-up including peer trainings, access to tools, networks, legal support and financial opportunities to take their common innovation project to completion >Maximizing social and environmental positive impacts by encouraging an iterative process and user-centered innovations Our idea bridges science and society: by mainstreaming collaborative and multi-stakeholder innovation projects for the greater good our goal is to bridge planet and prosperity.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our beneficiaries are: - local communities impacted by climate change issues, starting with insular territories. - social entrepreneurs, whose first goal is to solve a social or environmental challenge and that need scientific skills or technical support to do so; - scientists, who are looking for sense and purpose. Here is a concrete example of a match we have previously made: Gérard is an entrepreneur from Burkina Faso where malaria is the first cause of hospitalization. He had a clever idea to fight against the disease: a mosquito-repellent soap. He won many social business contests but the solution was a distant dream due to huge R&D needs. Thanks to SoScience, Gérard met and partnered with Patrick, director of a French laboratory. They are working on improving the protection length of the soap through R&D while integrating local communities’ sanitation habits.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Contrary to independent hacklabs (such as La Paillasse in Paris, Fr), we chose to use the existing system to set-up collaborative innovation projects: it allows us to reach many more scientists and harness the power of recognized experts to create solutions for the planet and the people. Though, involving only academics and experts has been proved to hinder results of such approaches. Thus, others addressing the problem such as Singularity University, X or IdeaSquare, ideate and try to implement their own solutions, sometimes missing real needs. Social entrepreneurs who deeply understand their community needs are at the core of the program thus allowing user-centered and appropriate innovations. We are the first organization to implement such collaborations in Europe and we aim for a global system change: we advocate for new funding policies and legal frameworks to the European Commission and French public funding institutions.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Pilot: I have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users.
  • Early Adoption: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have begun to expand the pilot for early adoption.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

SoScience is a social company dedicated to supporting Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) in private and public sectors, expert for the European Commission, winner of the Grinnell Prize and supported by Echoing Green and Ashoka networks.

Expertise in sector

  • 5-7 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered company.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

Mélanie and Eloïse founded SoScience out of their experience as scientists. Eloïse worked as a researcher during the day and as a social entrepreneur at night. While wondering about why she was'nt able to mix the two activities at the same time, they realized that the scientific world is'nt geared toward social impact and is hard to access when coming from the outside. They want to open up these worlds so they can collaborate together and thus improve innovation created for the greater good.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

It is common knowledge that both Prosperity and the Planet are impacted by the effects of climate change, especially insular communities. Fortunately, there is an emerging breed of changemakers with brilliant solutions like Coral Vita who restores the world's degraded and threatened reefs using land-based coral farming. There are also 7.8 million full-time equivalent researchers whose work can be used to implement life changing solutions and mitigation strategies. However, scientists’ success is mostly measured by economics factors and not by their impact on society. Thus Prosperity is influenced by private interests rather than community’s needs. Collaboration with communities or local social entrepreneurs is not incentivized nor subject to existing legal frameworks (OECD): it represents less than 1% of worldwide research effort (Houllier Report). As science and social innovation influence planet and prosperity, it is urgent and necessary to bridge them to tackle societal challenges.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

SoScience has already a partnership with the French research institute for sustainable development (IRD), a rich community of over 7,000 people whose work is based on an original model: equitable scientific partnership with developing countries. Through Echoing Green and Ashoka networks, we can have access to a lot of social actors who work on climate change to take part in the program and enact new collaborative innovation projects. The specific local communities will be integrated in the project through and according to the local knowledge of social actors enrolled in the program. We already organized 4 editions of our collaborative research program “The Future Of”, gathering 30 experts coming from various sectors (including research and social entrepreneurship) on 4 specific issues related to the SDG’s. 95% of attendees declared to be satisfied and 49 collaborations projects between science and civil society emerged from participants (from 8 countries) to the programs.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

The top strength of our community is based on the match of their complementary needs, skills and wills. Indeed, most of the scientists are looking for meaning and commitment in their research work, are aware about societal challenges and are passionate about tackling them. Social entrepreneurs are committed with positive impacts and need technical support for their technology-based solutions. Finally, local threatened communities want to improve their situation and thus work towards it.

Geographic Focus

Communities threatened by climate change starting with French overseas territories.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

This idea can be implemented in 24 months: - 6 months of preparation (create partnership, prepare a call for interest, events etc.) - 18 months support: as participants are involved in their respective professionnal activities, this timeline is needed to create trust and common objectives (4months), to prototype and iterate (10months), and to deal with business issues (4months).

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No


Join the conversation:

Photo of Kevin Adair

Hi, Mélanie,
We're now testing our improved gasifier briquette stoves against the charcoal stoves that are currently killing the Haitian people as they cook. Charcoal is also causing deforestation and climate change. We would love to have many more scientists involved. Is this something your scientists might be interested in creating a partnership to explore? Thanks, Kevin

Photo of Mélanie Marcel

Dear Kevin, Thank you for your comment, we are glad to see that you would find interest in being linked to scientists as a social entrepreneur! Indeed, we've engaged scientists in the past on the issue of clean cookstove, with the company Prakti Design. The topic is extremely important and there would definitely be a need for a program on that. Let's keep in touch so that we can include you in our programs as soon as we develop one on this issue and/or in the Haïti region.
All the best,

Photo of Kevin Adair

Dear Mélanie,
Great to hear from you. The first briquettes that we designed for the Haitian market were designed in communication with Prakti Design. Now FdS is also designing the stoves and entire cooking-system, along with the briquettes. The eco-cooking world is a small one, and we all often revisit previous connections. Please do keep us in mind, and feel free to contact me at Connections like this are some of the best advantages of participation in OpenIDEO. We expect to be posting our latest summary of results within the next two days.