In a forthcoming book on ICT-enabled social innovation for the European social model (estimated publication end of 2017 by IOS Press, Amsterdam), Jeremy Millard, representative of the SI-DRIVE partner “University of Bradford”, has prepared a chapter on “networks, communities and value chains in digital social innovation for social services”. This provides strong empirical evidence, both quantitative and qualitative, about the role of ICT in social service value chains, such as in education, health, employment and local development. It also examines the role of communities and social capital formation, the network effects, as well as the governance, operational and strategic considerations and policy implications. The chapter unpicks both what digital and what people do best, and shows that, in most cases, they are complementary rather than alternatives and that the best results are achieved when they work together.
Although there are many pitfalls and challenges which the chapter examines, when implemented carefully and based on good practices, digital social innovation can result in the mobilisation and sharing of unused and underused assets of all kinds: tangible, intangible, monetised and non-monetised. People can become real ‘pro-sumers’ and can achieve increased voice, leading to greater empowerment and control of both their own lives, work, communities, and activities in general, as well as improvements in personal and collective capacities and skills across all aspects of life. This can be achieved through greater flexibility, variety and modularisation of assets, solutions and means of achieving results, and helps propel outcomes towards the principles of mass customisation and personalisation. Cost efficiencies can also be made by cutting out the ‘middle man’, shortening and improving value chains, as well as targeting them better and making them more effective. In particular, the sensitive combination of digital and people solutions can successfully tackle problems of poverty, unemployment and all types of disadvantage and marginalisation, including loneliness and alienation, and can improve personal lifestyles and confidence.
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