While digital social innovations are developing rapidly, and notwithstanding their potential power in bringing effective solutions to many of the world’s problems, there are many issues and areas of dispute that needs to be tackled, with the participation of diverse actors. Here are some of the issues that we think are important to address in future research and debates:
- Who joins? While digital social economy is growing rapidly, the users are confined mostly to people with digital literacy. Moreover, research by sociology Professor Juliet Schor on the sharing economy highlights a paradox of openness: sometimes users can be confined to people coming from privileged social classes, forming cohesive groups (find a link to her article here) at the expense of diversity. How can digital social economy be more inclusive, and its actors more diverse?
- Replicability and openness: Scaling potential of DSI is an important issue to address in future research. How can the scaling potential of DSIs be strengthened? While DSI discourse prioritises openness as one of its founding principles, in our research on digital social innovations in France, we find that most innovations are protected and difficult to replicate over distant contexts and geographies.
- Synergies with incumbents: How do the incumbents integrate into the digital social economy? There are a range of strategies that existing firms implement to tackle the competitive threats. On this issue, technology journalist Alexandra Samuels offers some insights in a Harvard Business Review article, where her focus is on the collaborative economy; here is a link to her article: Established Companies, Get Ready for the Collaborative Economy.
- Research on users: One of the problems in carrying out research on the DSI is that we have few insights about user behaviour in platforms, due to the fact that data on users are not (and cannot be) revealed by platform owners. This forms a barrier to address many questions related with user behaviour, attitudes, and profiles.
- Indicators: Stakeholder involvement and cross sectoral partnerships are a very important aspect of digital social innovations. However, one of the problems in cross sectoral partnerships is related with the difficulty in finding a common language in collaborations. For example, different sectors can value/ or measure success in different ways, which can be a barrier to effective partnerships. How can we develop indicators of success to take into account the expectations of a diverse range of interests?