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Is our society sustainable?

The overriding imperative for our society is economic growth. The engine of this growth is innovation, the creation of new kinds of artifacts.

But the increasing threatens of environmental, social and economic crises urge us to pose a question: is “the innovation society” sustainable?

We in INSITE are investigating whether Western society's innovation processes and its dependence on them might lie at the root of the sustainability crises.

And if so – what can be done about it?

  • Towards an agenda for social innovation

  • Is the innovation society sustainable?

  • How can innovation be focused and directed?

    Can its direction be provided by civil society rather than the market?

  • A complex system perspective to sustainability and innovation


INSITE regularly organizes workshops, seminars, lectures, etc. to confront with others, stimulate the dialogue and cultivate its community. These events may be held in Venice or in other European locations when organized by one of INSITE's partners and friends. Please check our events calendar and availability.

Read our papers

INSITE's network of scholars constantly write academic papers on Innovation, Sustainability, Technology and other relevant themes.

Contact us

INSITE is an open community: if you want to publish an article or you have any idea or project you would like to share, please contact us.

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/// What is INSITE

INSITE is a coordination action sponsored by the European Union program DG connect on The innovation society, sustainability and ICT.

INSITE’s principle purpose is to contribute to a sustainable future for society and the environment: our consortium includes scientists and practitioners from a varied range of disciplines and organizations.

/// From the blog

  • Masters of Networks is back!

    Author: Alberto Cottica Comments: 0 Date: 16 Mar 2014
    Designing for emergent effects in social dynamics may seem a contradiction in terms, and – if left unqualified – it is. And yet it is a very tempting goal for INSITErs, as we progress on our quest to imbuing innovation activities with social values that would make any changes resulting from such activities “good”, for [...]
  • Call for tender: video production

    Author: Insite Staff Comments: 0 Date: 15 Mar 2014
    Life is a storyboard. And it’s determined by crossroads, and decisions that we make in those critical turning points. Change the decision at the crossroad, you change your life. As part of the EU project INSITE “The Innovation Society, Sustainability, and ICT” (EU Coordination Action, aiming to explore the concept of social innovation and ICT) [...]
  • Designing a more sustainable Europe: stories for Change and Innovation

    Author: Insite Staff Comments: 0 Date: 14 Jan 2014
    The first INSITE workshop of 2014 will focus on Narratives about Sustainability, Innovation and Local Development issues within the European Union with the aim to foster a concrete and stimulating dialogue with the invited organizations (DIPOs – Distributed Innovation Policy Organizations) on how it could be designed and developed a common strategy for guiding the [...]

/// Mobilizing civil society and ICT

Read the latest news about ICT tools and social innovations designed to mobilize civil society.

/// Latest articles

  • Towards an agenda for social innovation

    Author: David Lane Comments: 0 Date: 05 Feb 2014
    Ten years ago very few people were talking about social innovation; five years ago, President Barroso put social innovation on the European Commission policy agenda; now social innovation has become a bandwagon, attracting attention from many national and local governments, inspiring many young people to explore new career opportunities that combine entrepreneurialism with the desire for social relevance, challenging traditional patterns of social engagement as practiced by cooperatives and civil society organizations. But “social innovation” is more a rallying cry than it is a coherent vision or strategy for societal level social transformation. This document puts forward a proposal for such a vision, by contextualizing social innovation as a possible way forward from our society’s current system of organizing its transformation processes, a system we call the Innovation Society. We describe four principles that we think should be at the foundation of a systemic theory of social innovation, and we develop some of the strategic implications of these principles – thus providing a basis for an action agenda for social innovation. We conclude with some tactical considerations: a set of projects we would like to launch, to begin to realize the agenda our document implies. Download the Manifesto in PDF
  • Is the Innovation Society Sustainable?

    Author: Sander van der Leeuw Comments: 0 Date: 29 Aug 2012
    From the perspective of the archaeologist/historian and anthropologist we can compare the ups and downs of many civilizations and societies at different timescales, in different natural environments, both in the present and the past. Whether one looks at the Roman, Sassanian, Spanish, British, or American Empires, or at small-scale societies in Africa or Papua New Guinea such as the Huli, in each case a group of people constructs a way of living together, exploits it and grows in size and footprint to a full-scale society with many institutions, and ultimately disintegrates. Disintegration entails the dispersal of people, throwing them back on fending for themselves rather than depending on their group synergies for their survival. There may then follow a phase of reconstruction so that another society emerges, organized differently, with different means of subsistence and a different organization and institutions. Of course, people have been aware of this for a very long time – Gibbon, Spencer and countless others have described the rise and fall of civilizations.
    Read More
  • Loser and Sfigato

    Author: Michele Zappia Comments: 0 Date: 21 Aug 2012
    Some months ago the Italian vice minister of labor and social policy, Michel Martone, said that “Anyone who hasn’t graduated by the age of 28 is a sfigato”. “Sfigato” means loser.
    Read More

/// Our perspective

INSITE project is based upon some fundamental assumptions:

  • The way in which our society is organized has become more and more dependent on innovation, simply intended as the ability to constantly generate new artifacts.
  • The social, cultural and technological aspects of innovation processes are inextricably linked through a positive feedback dynamic.
  • This positive feedback dynamic generates inherently unpredictable externalities that can threaten the sustainability of the environment and social organization itself.
  • The only way society can respond to this is by changing the way in which it monitors, evaluates and engages in the processes through which it transforms its own organization.

In order to achieve this, a deeper mobilization of civil society through its active engagement in participatory policy projects is needed. Read more »