The Fuchsia Acorn of Social Innovation

In early 2014, LIS (Laboratorio Innovazione Sociale – Social Innovation Lab), local CSV (i.e. Service Center for Volunteering in Padua) and our small agency InTerritori, designed the first edition of FIRST (i.e. Festival for Social Innovation, Research and Territories). The festival took place in Padua (Italy) in late-winter 2014. It was designed as an open laboratory for active citizens, institutions, researchers, local and regional stakeholders, prosumers and start-uppers (to see 2014’s presenters and protagonists, please go to
The leading aim of FIRST was to activate a process of “literacy” and discussion on the fuzzy theme of social innovation.
The idea of calling ‘festival’ an open lab was the very first step towards social innovation field. So our transdisciplinary team imagined to design a set of tools to empower the connectivity among these components of the civil society, in order to move them up, towards the construction of an innovation environment. They were mainly tools of communication, they weren’t designed for a participatory process. The main reason was that we were focused on literacy and discussion, sending the participation back to the subsequent editions of FIRST.

During the design process (and some months before, in 2013) we made some focuses on specific parts of the general theme (i.e. social innovation).
The Social Innovation Lab noticed that (in our local context) it was not so clear that “socinn” could be read as a different kind of business, more equal in the distribution of positive externalities, usually based on collaborative research&developement and crowdsourced financial tools. Then the local Sevice Center for Volunteering in Padua wanted to add to the design process of FIRST  the third sector’s point of view (expecially in northern Italy): the third sector creates jobs , income and wealth , then the possibility of social and economic growth (in absolute terms , Lombardy , Veneto , Tuscany , Emilia Romagna and Piedmont collect the highest number of volunteers – more than 400 thousand units of volunteers). We founders of InTerritory (a private agency focused on improving land strategies) thought that we also must include a new type of physical-digital territorialization in the social innovation strategies: innovators must talk to planners and architects, and master plans and urban design tools could include more connectivity and network-based research&developement to be more suitable to the needs of a local innovation ecosystem.

To all of us it was finally clear that the two main keywords were learning and imagine. These are the two side of what we think creativity is about, as a process: open your mind towards new possibilities, then learn on what you can see and test there.

We started creating a set of digital tools: a website where we present FIRST’s people and themes (in partnership with Joomla Veneto, an association spreading Joomla, an open source code for dynamic html coding); social accounts (on Twitter – #beplayer, Facebook and YouTube) where to spread news and tips about the incoming festival; live streaming of the main speeches.

At the same time, in 2013, we presented the program of the festival to the municipality of Padua (but we still think that they really didn’t understand what we were talking about) and to the local Informagiovani (a pubblic office inside the municipality, which helps younger people in finding jobs; it also gives them information about calls and events). To engage local stakeholders and other institutions we designed four off-line workshop about City, School, Work and E-government. Each workshop was kept by an activator, whose’s roles were pushing the discussions and collecting needs and strategies from citizens.

Unfortunately we missed our workshop’s purpose, mainly for two reasons: low participation and too wide issues. Even if we used a pop aesthetics in our visual communication strategy, presenting a short advertisement (  on a local radio (Radiobue, the local college radio – and on APS HOLDING buses’s CCTV, at the end of the 2014 edition it was quite clear that there were some gaps to be filled. We didn’t match local business’s interests, and perhaps we also quite missed in reducing the divide between young and elder citizens.

These are two of few reasons why, for the upcoming 2015 edition of FIRST, we are designing a new approach: instead of imaging what we could offer to the pubblic we would try to empower the answer for innovation, including it in the design process.

In order to engage public administration we are now proposing some preliminary meetings (we intend them to be suitable especially for municipal employees).

Basically we propose to the Public Administration some small free literacy classes, with the pourpouse to activate a more specific collaboration in preparing the edition of 2015.

These short literacy courses are intended to be the very beginning, by which we want to engage also municipal employes towards social innovation’s strategies. After those courses we hope to have some people (among the employes) working with us in preparing 2015 edition’s themes and workshops.

For example we are now proposing municipality’s offices to organize free labs (addressed only to pubblic officers) on social innovation literacy and crowdsourcing tools. In our minds these could be an occasion to set also municipality needs, and a strategy to communicate officers the possibility to start some public-private labs during 2015 FIRST.

Analyzing 2014 edition’s limits (and negative results) we are now focusing more on participation and consensus building to engage active citizens, but at the same time we are imaging maps as a simple way to represent (and to link) local community’s emergent needs, bottom-up strategies and thoughts. We have understood that conceptual maps could be the very beginning of a real collaboration between community and institutions.

For the 2015 edition we will enhance the importance of FIRST’s symbol, the fuchsia acorn, spreading it around the city during some pop-up events (we are preparing a PARK(ing) Day, nearby the central train station – PARK(ing) Day is a annual open-source global event where citizens, artists and activists collaborate to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into “PARK(ing)” spaces: temporary public places).

It will be important to emphasize the link between our symbol and these urban actions.

We are also preparing a small exposition on local innovation, inviting exhibitors (start-uppers, small social enterprises, associations) to deal with citizen through some panels, showing potentials and benefits of their proposals.

Collaterally we imagine to develop an old dream: the “FIRST in a Box” tool. The idea comes from “TEDx in a Box”, a tool developed by consultants at IDEO to help poorer communities in organizing local TEDx events. TED (i.e. Technology Entertainment Design) is a conference about “ideas worth spreading” (mainly on urbanization, globalization, health and communities, science and research), organized in Monterey (California) since 1984, by  Richard Saul Wurman e Harry Marks. “TEDx” represents the possibility, for other cities and communities all over the world, to have their local TED event, and “TEDx in a Box” (developed for TEDxKibera). The Box included the basic tools to hold a TEDx conference (i.e. a projector, subtitled TED talks, a sound system, microphones and a how-to guide).

Like “TEDx in a Box”, we will be preparing an open digital repository of our visual identity symbols and colours, explanation panels, templates. We hope that other local communities will be interested in spreading FIRST’s ideas, enhancing the network, under the flag of the fuchsia acorn. To complete “FIRST in a Box” with the right tools, we still need to test theme during the 2015 edition (which will be slightly different from 2014’s one).

Planning from the base: Circular participatory projects

Mankind’s success has crucially depended upon the ability to cooperate for a common goal and to create communities. This is how we moved from caves to megacities. The value of cooperation relies in the community: a group sufficiently small to deal with daily based decisions, and big enough, to understand the relevance of external dynamics. Participation represents, at the local level, a strategy often more successful than representative politics which could be constrained by local interests (in Italy, only 20% of citizens trust local politicians; Demos, 2014).

WS Angolazioni, 2013, Venezia, progetto partecipato per il riuso degli spazi sottostanti i numerosi cavalcavia di Mestre


The first participative projects, at the community level, were organized in England in the 70’. Several problems rose. The main ones related the lack of dialogue within the community and the unwillingness to delegate power to citizens. In practice, pre-defined forms of engagement were preferred to more elaborated and participative approaches. Citizens’ participation was limited and choices could be easily driven by the architect interest. Transparency and engagement were limited. A mediator was in charge of planning and implementing strategies to favour the public debate to finalize a shared decision. The participative planning was an idea to empower people but it was organized upon the needs of the policymakers.

Then something happened. A new technology, the internet, redesigned the concept of participation solving some crucial problems. Now, it is possible to participate without being physically present, enlarging the target of participation and allowing an unprecedented level of transparency. Identity became irrelevant. Everybody could express her opinion on everything. Finally, Internet allowed combining an infinite number of information, the biggest dataset ever collected.

Such combination of elements defines Internet as the most useful tool to implement participative projects, and finally, we start doing so. In the last fifteen years, the relevance of local participative projects has constantly risen. The key-words “participatory design” was 600% more common in 2014 than in 2000. In 2013, Island has been the first country to design a Constitution through crowdsourcing. Ushadidi, a crowdsourcing app aimed signalling emergences, has drastically reduced the intervention time of local authorities in Equatorial Africa. The pyramid of decision making is slowly moving, switching from a system where few specialized agents take decisions from an opposite scenario where the bottom of the pyramid holds the power. Institutions got the message as they are more and more likely to favour participative projects (the OECD recently advised the diffusion of participative planning to foster citizens’ trust). However, this operating system is still based on key agents who define the object of the participation. What would it happen eliminating such intermediate players? What would it happen delegating all the power to the bottom?

Salisburgo 2010, azione spontanea di riuso temporaneo di uno spazio urbano, ad opera delle comunità di quartiere.

Such cases are called “circular” participative projects: citizens who cooperate to solve community’s problems to solve different sets of welfare, urban and governmental issues. The first input comes from citizens who then build personalized, bottom-based, solutions. The current challenge relates the creation of web-platforms able to guarantee such participative projects, “digital squares” created to host public debates. Raymond Lorenzo di ABCittà explains that “the participative planning is an educative process”, as “such interactions, among citizens, guarantee reciprocal knowledge and feelings of belonging towards the local community”. Internet is not a shortcut but a method to allow shared decision making in the 21st century cities, an ally to the standard methods of participative planning.

CivicWise’s goal is to generate a platform which allows interactions within and between communities, identifies problems and define suitable solutions, following their implementation. No intermediate players, no compromise. Only citizens united to work together for a shared goal.

Vittorio Netti


Plane Panic: A Medical Emergency at 35,000 Feet

I’ve never liked flying very much. I know a lot of physicians who feel the same way: By nature, we like to be in control, and flying involves giving up control.

But I was returning home from a conference 3,000 miles away, and that would have been a long drive. So as the plane took off, I settled into my window seat and did what I usually do: I closed my eyes and tried to will myself to sleep.

I had been on-call for the previous week and must have been exhausted; the next thing I knew my seatmate was jostling me.

“You said you were a doctor, right?” he asked urgently. “They’re asking for one up front.” In an instant, I was suddenly, jarringly, awake.

Medical training left me in a perpetual state of high alert, so when I’m told someone needs a doctor now I don’t think of upset stomachs or anxiety attacks — I think of cardiac arrest. Knowing there might be no time to lose, I squeezed past the two people in my row. A dozen rows ahead, a frantic young man was shaking his neighbor, whose bulky form was slumped over in the seat. “He won’t wake up!” the young man gasped.

I dived into the row and pressed my fingers into the man’s neck. My new patient’s face was chalky, his eyes open but unseeing, and he wasn’t breathing. At his carotid artery, I found no pulse.

Nexus 5 Review: The Best Android Can Offer (Especially For the Price)

What Is It?

It’s the new Nexus, baby. It’s a smartphone from Google (built by LG) designed to showcase the newest version of Android (4.4, a.k.a. KitKat) in its purest form. It has a 5-inch, 1080p IPS Plus screen (445 pixels per inch), Qualcomm’s current flagship in the quad-core 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800 processor, 2GB RAM, 2300mAh battery, and a 8MP camera on the back. And yes, unlikelast year’s Nexus 4, the Nexus 5 supports LTE with no hacking required.

Perhaps most significantly, you can buy it, unlocked, and without any carrier subsidies for $350 (16GB version) or $400 (32GB version) straight from Google. Most major US carriers will be selling it as well at significantly reduced on-contract prices, though you have to promise your first born or something. Sadly, Verizon customers are being left out in the cold on this one.

Why It Matters

The Nexus 5 matters because it’s Google’s pure, unadulterated vision for what an Android phone should be. And its predecessors have always been among the best phones of any kind you can buy.

The most important feature of a Nexus phone is that it offers a vanilla Android experience. Hardware manufacturers can’t help but pollute their offerings with skins, which almost without exception degrade your overall experience. Some of them are okay, and some of them make you want to feed your hands to an alligator, but none of them are 100-percent pure Google.

It’s not just software, though; Nexus hardware has—in theory, at least—been dialed in by Google to show off the full potential of its platform. As with last year’s Nexus 4, Google has tapped LG to produce the body to pair with its KitKat soul. Ultimately, it’s the closest thing in the Android ecosystem to what Apple is able to offer with its iPhone, where Google has full control of the software and the hardware. Oh, and because the Nexus program essentially exists outside of wireless carrier control, OS updates come much, much faster.

Screen Shot 2013-11-05 at 6.49.28 PM


On the outside, the Nexus 5 is unremarkable. That doesn’t mean bad, just that nothing really stands out. It’s a slightly rounded rectangle, most reminiscent of a Galaxy S4except a bit taller (5.43 vs 5.38 inches), a bit thicker (0.34 vs 0.31 inches), and just a hair narrower (2.72 vs 2.75 inches). The back is a brushed plastic that strikes a nice balance between smooth and grippy. The only physical buttons on it (the power button and the volume rocker) are both placed just prominently enough, and offer a satisfying click.

Really the Nexus 5’s only distinguishing features are an extra-large camera lens (which is necessary for the built-in and fantastic optical image stabilization), and its big bright screen. Speaking of the latter: that IPS Plus display is sharp and plenty bright, even in direct sunlight. When compared to an AMOLED display, you can see a bit of rosiness in the whites (whereas AMOLEDs tend to skew a bit greenish) which we find pleasing, but no IPS display can come anywhere near an AMOLED when it comes to blacks. The Nexus 5 manages a respectable very dark gray, but it can’t touch that vacuum-of-space blackness that the AMOLEDs have.

There is no removable battery, expandable memory, or IR blaster on the Nexus 5. There is, however, wireless charging, which actually comes in pretty handy.