We believe that digital innovation can be used for the common good. That’s why we work together with our European partners Nesta, Waag, WeMake, FabLab, Barcelona Activa and EPF initiated DSISCALE, funded by the European Union. The DSISCALE project aims at supporting policy makers, funders and, most importantly, practitioners to scale digital social innovation (DSI) in Europe and at making the most out of the opportunities in using emerging trends. Therefore, we map and analyze digital trends that will shape the future of DSI such as machine learning, AI, robotics, blockchain, 3D printing, internet of things, virtual reality and others.
Trends arise from movement, from change. But not every change is already a trend. Conversion processes become a trend as soon as they reach a critical mass and we assume that the drivers behind the change processes have a certain stability. Based on a diagnosis (what has happened in the past?) we venture a hypothesis, a view of the future (how will it develop?).
Digitalization represents a paradox: On one hand, the future is more difficult to predict than ever before due to shorter development cycles and the participation of more and more people (who would have imagined Facebook or M-Pesa a few years ago?). On the other hand, trends are easier to discover because they can be found bundled together in a “place” called the Internet; a resonant space in which millions of users are drawn to them.
The trends can be differentiated according to their various penetration depths: the spectrum ranges from rather short-term fads, which are just starting to emerge and then disappear again after five years at the latest, the so-called buzz trends, up to the mega-trends, with a half-life of at least 25 years in which they shape all areas of society and business. In between there are a number of stages that are less relevant than the degree of efficiency, or more precisely, the social potential of these trends.
In what ways is digitization – probably the biggest driver of progress since electrification – changing the social sector? Which technologies allow a higher range and scaling, which allow for individualization and better compatibility of social services? How are organizational forms, working methods and expectations of the participants changing? In short, how can we prepare for future changes, shape them, and take advantage of them for sustainable social change?
To identify trends, we observe changes and tendencies within society. This happens either targeted (monitoring) or undirected (scanning). We analyze how and for what digitization is used worldwide and summarize the first examples to come up with trend hypotheses.
Trends reflect changing values and worldviews; however, they are observable on the basis of concrete statements, actions and products. In trend scouting, we specifically search for these manifestations, the cases (individual examples), and describe them in more detail. We talk to the creators and technology experts in order to incorporate different perspectives on the trend. A major role is played by our international network, which we use via crowdsourcing to gain the view of different European countries.
In addition to the exchange of content, we pursue a data-driven approach. The data analysis of a number of different corpora (including news, expert blogs and patent applications) provide additional insight into the current development of the trend and its resonance in different circles.
At the end, we interpret the surveys. We describe application-oriented chances and risks in the implementation, point out scenarios of the development and give a prognosis.
Above all, our research should do one thing for you: save you a great deal of time that you would otherwise have to spend on researching and analyzing emerging trends.
In the constant change of the digitization we want to help you with the trend research, to better estimate which innovations you would like to take up, where skepticism is appropriate or a hype is waiting. We want to inspire you for the possibilities of digitization, which now have to be shaped. And last but not least, we want to support you in making good, future-oriented and courageous decisions.