Do you know where Griebnitzsee is? No? This small railway station on the outskirts of Berlin is home to a campus of the University of Potsdam that also hosts the School of Design Thinking. In this innovation hub for academics and entrepreneurs from all over the world, more than 900 social entrepreneurs, managers, academics, administrators and journalists met last week to explore how they can spark ‘a revolution of social innovations’.
The Vision Summit, held 7-9 April, was organized for the fourth time by the Genesis Institute, a Berlin-based social business think-tank. The motto of the conference ‘Don’t wait. Innovate!’ underlined the urgency that the organizers sense. Peter Spiegel, founder of the Genesis Institute, and Franz Alt, a well-known German journalist who facilitated the plenary sessions, again and again hinted at the need to act now. The events in Fukushima were always present in Griebnitzsee. ‘How can we connect renewable energy sources with social innovations, social businesses?’ This was one of the key questions discussed in the conference breaks.
The conference started with a large scale Design Thinking Workshop in collaboration with Potsdam’s Design Thinking School. Seven teams explored solutions for challenges such as bureaucracy and social entrepreneurship or communicating sustainability. These workshops were a very interactive way to connect and the results were presented during the main event.
The main conference, conducted in German and English, consisted of plenary sessions and more than 40 workshops. The workshops dealt with themes (education, environment, etc), financing social innovations and organizational development. The conference even provided an introductory track to the world of social enterprise and business.
One subtheme in many workshops was how civil society, business and the state can explore new forms of partnership. An example of such new forms of collaboration, presented during the summit, is the Cologne-based Social Lab. It is an experiment in how a variety of social enterprises in the field of education can together create change for children and youth in a city. In addition, it is looking for new partnerships with the local business community and the city authority.
The Vision Summit in 2011 provided a link between the German-speaking social entrepreneurship and innovation scene and the global movement. It is one of those mega-conferences where people connect, ideas are exchanged and – let’s hope – some new ideas are developed. Griebnitzsee is a place people should know about.
Michael Alberg-Seberich is executive partner at Active Philanthropy. Email email@example.com
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