Simon sitting in front of the sis18 audience

Using Technology to drive change #SIS18

written by Simon Stegemann2019-06-26T17:30:43.900Z

I was born in Stuttgart and some of my early childhood memories came back as I was walking to the Wizemann Space where the Social Innovation Summit 2018 took place last week. The memory is probably 30 years old (I am turning 35 this year) and is mainly about remembering the area where my mother went shopping with me and my brother.

This memories reminded me how quickly everything changes. I have changed, Stuttgart has changed, the world is changing.

I was invited to speak at a panel discussion on “Using Technology to Drive Change”. With me on the panel was the fantastic Clare Sutcliffe. She started as a designer and became a social entrepreneur to educate the next generation in technology skills by building up the Code Club in the UK, which then became part of the Raspberry-Pi Foundation.

From New York, serial entrepreneur and system changer Thomas Rush joined the panel in his role as an “intrapreneur” at Consensys Blockchain accelerator. The accelerator was founded by Joseph Lubin, the creator of Ethereum, a platform that enables decentralized technology solutions on a global scale.

During our panel we discussed the big technology trends right now, especially with a potential to create positive social impact!

In this discussion we highlighted a couple trends:

  1. The Internet of Things & Robotics. In order to create a sustainable future and protect the environment we need to change our behavior. Smart meters and sensors will provide the information needed to make this behavior changes more efficiently and effectively in our daily lives. For example: Stuttgart has a major problem with fine dust pollution. Smart devices and sensors will help to gather better information and give people real time advice about air quality and how to avoid certain areas.
  2. Big Data, Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning. There is a new level on how machines/algorithms can collect and detect information from all kinds of sources. The ability to compare and understand millions of data sources like images will for example lead to better early diagnostics in healthcare. However there are also many risks involved as every personal action becomes a data point. Who owns my data? What will personal freedom look like in 10 years? Many of these questions are not answered yet.
  3. Blockchain Technology. At the moment the most prominent technology disrupting centralized power. Everything related to “trust” could at some point touch the blockchain technology. This technology is much more than a “cryptocurrency hype”, but certainly requires a critical reflection where it adds a valuable approach and where not. If you want to learn more about this join our N3XTCODER Blockchain for Social Innovation Workshop in Munich April 28

With all these rapid changes, there are risks and opportunities. At the Social Innovation Summit the spirit was mainly positive towards the new opportunities.

Working for many years in the tech industry I would like to emphasize that we need to develop a strong new mindset in a technology driven society. A mindset that is aware of potential risks and addresses new ethical questions. What kind of society do we want to live in? Who takes responsibility? What kind of life do I want to live using these technologies?

At our N3XTCODER Session in 2017, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Prof. Muhammad Yunus stated that: “If you are a socially driven person to design technology, then it will be a totally different technology”.

The social sector needs to create such solutions and support those who are already trying to build them. As the tech industry is mainly money driven we need to think about adding different sets of KPI´s for what we call a successful organization, such as environmental impact, impact on society, quality of life.

More questions came up: How is the status quo of digitization in the social sector? Are they up to speed? Why or why not?

The panel described it in a rather diplomatic way by calling it “a spectrum in the social sector”. However in general my subjective perspective is that the social sector is lacking way behind. There are not many digital accelerator programs for the social sector out there that I am aware of and the few i know need better funding and digital expertise.

The players in the social sector have to join forces and make policy makers aware about our concerns and provide alternative solutions to the capital driven organisations to allow real social innovation prototyping. The newly established Social Entrepreneurship Network Germany ( is a great first step in this direction.

I also expect more from the “big players”. They have the network and financial power to invest larger amounts to cultivate the value driven economy. We need get up to speed and lead the way in best practices. We need to create new financial instruments and funds that allow the social sector to create innovative prototypes. Even with the risk to fail. We just have to fail quickly and stand up again. We need to learn as every other sector too!

If others invest billions into technologies to fly to Mars, we have to invest billions into social driven technologies to save our planet!

As we create new technologies we can develop processes to detect risks and flaws in the new systems and new “hyped” technologies. The open source movement is a really good way of making sure that we create inclusive technologies.

The Social Innovation Summit was a great gathering of many players in the social field. To experience this in my old “Benz” town gives me hope. We need this kind of friendly pressure and inspiration from many parts of Germany. That helps to “shake” the political Berlin bubble. Only with support from the Government we can drive social change at a big scale. As the social sector we need to establish better cooperations with the industry and German Mittelstand to come up with a clear roadmap for sustainable development. A roadmap everyone knows about and that is easy to join.

Big thanks to SocEntBW for organizing this great event and the invitation!

If you want to get involved?

Step 1 → Join the Social Entrepreneurship Network Germany

Step 2 → Dare to develop more than code → Let’s stay in touch

And take a look at impactful technology solutions applied by social entrepreneurs! Please check out these solutions and platforms:

Projects we work with just to name a few:

Pictures: Martin Stollberg: