SoTecIn: connecting people

How does technology intersect with community collaboration to tackle pressing societal and environmental issues? Enter SoTecIn Factory, a dynamic collaborative initiative with a mission to enhance the sustainability and resilience of European industries. At its core, SoTecIn Factory seeks to confront the inherent shortcomings of existing industrial models, which pose challenges both from a social and ecological perspective. Its innovative approach hinges on the integration of green and circular technologies into a novel framework that places community collaboration at its very heart.

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At the end of the 20th century, a mobile phone company had conquered Europe and the world from its icy birthplace using a marketing slogan that was as captivating as untrue: “Connecting People”. But technology is only as good as the people who use it. All we have to do is look at today’s bus stops or restaurants – people bent over their phones and tablets, not a word exchanged with their friends or neighbours – to realise just how empty that slogan really was. 


Technology can be divisive, true, but it can also be life-saving and world-changing, and offer brilliant solutions to the most intractable problems we face today. Especially when the people developing these solutions have been truly connected not to satisfy a phone company’s shareholders, but to redesign the world economy before it destroys the planet (and us with it). 


Such is the case of the communities Impact Hub has been building across Europe as part of an EU-funded project entitled SoTecIn Factory. The project is a collaborative environment “aimed at improving the resilience and sustainability of European industry by supporting a community of mission-oriented SOcial innovators and connecting them to TEChnology providers and INdustrial companies”. So-Tec-In. 


But what does that mean in practice? And how is Impact Hub essential to the success of the initiative? 


SoTecIn Factory’s approach rests on the observation that our current industrial models are unsustainable, both socially and ecologically. If we want to redesign the value chains at the heart of these models, green/circular technology can offer a huge opportunity, but only if it is embedded in a new model that has community at its heart.


In this case, the community is represented by the different stakeholders of a particular industrial sector – farmers and business leaders, activists and academics – very different from each other, and yet bound together by a defining mission that will transform a whole industrial sector. In Italy, like in the Netherlands, the missions are all about textiles, while in Portugal and Spain it’s food that takes centre stage: 


“Support Iberian farmers, producers, and consumers in a 3R agricultural revolution (one that is regional, regenerative, and resource-efficient)”. 

Arriving at this consensus wasn’t easy, but building diverse communities and helping them co-create solutions within their cities and countries is our bread and butter. That’s what we have been doing since Impact Hub opened its doors in London in 2005. 


In the case of SoTecIn, our teams of expert facilitators worked with these communities until they could trust each other enough to formulate their missions – and alongside them – a number of concrete challenges, which another Impact Hub community – the 25,000 social innovators and social entrepreneurs we support globally every day – is well placed to respond to.


And with good reason: there is €3.3 million available in grants to those who will offer solutions to these challenges. And – you’ve guessed it – also the solutions will be co-designed with the SoTecIn community acting as a sounding board, advisor and steering committee. This time, we will facilitate this community online. But the outcome will be the same: trust, courage and collaboration, the three founding values of the Impact Hub Network!

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