How to encourage university-community engagement with local communities and disadvantaged groups?
This is one of the main questions of the project LASIN – Latin American Social Innovation Network, funded by the European Commission.
Specifically, one of the main activities of LASIN is to design and run what are called SISU – Social Innovation Support Units, i.e., units dedicated to support the promotion of social innovation processes between university community members and external actors. The SISUs aims to contribute to the development of the communities where they operate, supporting social innovations to foster transformations in their cities.
Universities are privileged contexts for the experimentation of creative projects in social innovation if the focus is placed on fostering the interaction between internal and external actors, which can be significantly empowered by design practices.
A SISU – Social Innovation Support Unit was founded and is managed at Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) by the UFRJ Coppe DESIS Lab. The SISU is consolidating and reinforcing the aims of this DESIS Lab by bringing other departments in the university to collaborate around the promotion of social innovation in the city.
SISU´s professors and students
LASIN project is also promoting the development of a network of SISUs in other 7 Latin American universities.
The SISU works with semi-annual cycles and closed its first cycle in December 2017. The SISU in its first cicle (2nd semester 2017) involved more than 10 professors and technicians, from the graduate and undergraduate courses in Production Engineering, Administration and Gastronomy, together with the UFRJ Innovation Agency. It has involved also 23 students and supported 15 social innovation projects focused in different aspects that range from participatory urban planning, wildlife conservation and exchange market and parallel currency to LGBT movement, music, feminism, city gardens and networking activities in favelas.
The first cycle of the SISU: closing event