A digital magazine for the creative communities…

This blog is a digital magazine that shows cases of social innovation promising in terms of sustainable developement. It offers a platform of dialogue for the creative communities that generates these innovations to exchange on the different solutions they promote, between them and with the rest of the citizens that their alternative ideas may stimulate and inspire…


Aims, Consortium and Antennas

EMUDE (Emerging User Demands for Sustainable Solutions) is a programme of activities funded by the European Commission, the aim of which is to explore the potential of social innovation as a driver for technological and production innovation, in view of sustainability. To this end it seeks to shed more light on cases where subjects and communities use existing resources in an original way to bring about system innovation. From here, it intends to pinpoint the demand for products, services and solutions that such cases and communities express, and point to research lines that could lead to improved efficiency, accessibility and diffusion.

Emude has been promoted and developed by a Consortium of European universities and research centres. In order to identify a collection of promising cases it has set up a network of observers, known as Antennas, encompassing teams of researchers and students from 8 European design schools.


Politecnico di Milano, INDACO Department (Polimi) – co-ordinator
National Institute for Consumer Research (Sifo)
Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO)
Strategic Design Scenarios (SDS)
Doors of Perception (Doors)
Philips Design (Philips International)
Joint Research Centre – Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (JRC-IPTS)
Central European University, Budapest Fundation (CEU)
Consumers International (CI)
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP DTIE)


The School of Design, University of Applied Science, Cologne
POLI.design (Consorzio del Politecnico di Milano), Milano
Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow
The University of Art and Design (UIAH), Helsinki
Innovation Center of Estonian Academy of Arts, Tallinn
ENSCI Les Ateliers, Paris
Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design, Prague
Academy of Fine Arts, Krakow

Results and prospects

Direct Results

A clear detailed vision of what social innovation offers different interlocutors in terms of stimulus and orientation: from policy-makers (indications for economic, social and research policies, to entrepreneurs (possible new markets and new business ideas), to a wider audience of potentially interested individuals and communities (who we hope will be able to find, in the promising cases presented, inspiration to start up similar initiatives).
To achieve these results EMUDE is developing various targeted communication tools.

_ A collection of promising cases, which constitutes a kind of general catalogue of the “best practices” identified
_ Scenarios that outline overviews of their possible implications
_ Trends in demand drawn from existing cases, able to give some indication as to new markets and new business ideas
_ Technological roadmaps that point to possible future directions for innovation

Indirect results

An observer network, Antennas: a team of undergraduates and graduates from a number of European design schools, who act contemporarily as researchers and as disseminators of Emude findings both inside and outside their own institutions.

Future prospects: the creation and expansion of a permanent network

The role of the Antenna network does not stop with EMUDE, rather it aims to become a permanent structure that looks to offer a continuous service monitoring creative communities, the promising cases they set up, new demands for products and services that emerge, and their potential both on the social and environmental side and on that of new markets and new business ideas.

EMUDE started as a European initiative, it has taken the new expanded Europe as its field of study, and it is based on a network of 8 Antennas corresponding to as many European design schools. In future both the field of study and the antenna network may well expand to embrace other European and non-European countries and design schools.

Objectives, specific characteristics, programme

At the base of its activities EMUDE places the hypothesis that creative communities, and the promising cases they generate, can at the same time both anticipate a possible future, and offer concrete indications as to how technological, production and market innovation could be orientated from now on.

The basic, long term objective is to encourage a virtuous circle between social and technological innovation, or more specifically, between society’s capacity to emit positive signals (promising cases), its capacity to recognise, reinforce and effectively communicate them, and then its ability to pick up these signals and act on them, putting them to good use.
From this perspective EMUDE appears as a collective subject working as a signal amplifier, i.e. that (1) identifies promising signals, (2) reinforces them, and (3) re-emits them into the system in the most suitable ways and forms (see fig.1).


Distinguishing characteristics

The specific characteristic of the EMUDE programme is that it combines a system for gathering original information on the dynamics of social innovation, with activities that elaborate and communicate the data collected. In other words: it does not only seek to build up a new database, but also to activate a set of tools and communication channels that enable optimum use of its findings.
Another original aspect of the EMUDE programme comes from the decision to use teams of research students and undergraduates from design schools as antennas. The decision arises from the availability of researchers, i.e. the young designers, endowed with a special enthusiasm for, and sensibility towards, a kind of innovation that is at the same time both behavioural and technical. Furthermore, as a spin off, this choice means that the issue of social innovation and creative communities, with the sustainable solutions they put into action, is concretely introduced into design schools. Consequently, the possibility arises of forming a new generation of designers able to recognise such solutions and develop their implications for design projects.
Social innovation

Promising cases, creative communities, new demands

Promising cases

Complex as it is, contemporary society emits a variety of contradictory signals. Some point to ways of living that are even more unsustainable than those currently dominant. Others are moving in the opposite direction and show cases of social innovation that generate individual well-being, social quality and a reduced environmental weight.

Ways of living where spaces and services are pooled in order to live better. *Production activities based on local resources and skills. *Healthy, natural forms of nutrition. *Self-managed services for the care of children and the elderly. *New forms of exchange. *Alternative mobility systems to replace the monoculture of individual cars. *Socialising initiatives to bring cities to life. *Networks linking consumers directly with producers…

Such examples are taking shape as promising cases of social innovation: initiatives that are, in all probability, concrete steps in the right direction, i.e. towards sustainable ways of living and producing.

Creative communities

If we observe promising cases of social innovation we can see that each of them is the result of actions by groups of particularly inventive, enterprising people who have been able to identify objectives and find suitable tools and organisational forms for achieving them. What these creative communities show themselves able to do is of great interest and concrete importance.

Solutions and ways of living that manage to make individual, collective and environmental interests coincide, show that it is possible to take concrete steps towards sustainability. *Concrete cases of what could be “normal” in a sustainable society fuel social debate and the generation of shared visions on this theme. * Working, sustainability-orientated solutions point to interesting lines for research that aims to facilitate the effectiveness and accessibility of promising cases * New demands for sustainable products and services are already opening immediate production and market potential….

At present, creative communities and the cases they put into practice are generally minority phenomena. However, they could be seen to anticipate the future: phenomena that may grew in importance and become reference points for new ways of thinking, for new ways of living and producing, and for new enterprise. These in turn could lead to new, more general ideas of well-being, economy and society.

New demands

When promising cases of social innovation are recognised in their peculiarities and the demand they potentially express is understood, they may become the stimulus for system innovation and a test bench for the development of a new generation of products and services.

Experience of shared living facilities could become the starting point for a new generation of apparatus for totally new domestic and residential functions. *Solutions that make a healthier diet and direct relations with producers possible could be stimuli for a new rationale in nutrition lines. * Cases of localised production and self-production could spur the development of processes and products specifically conceived for this kind of de-centralised production *Experience of mobility systems alternative to the car monoculture, could lead to the development of alternative means of transport…

If interpreted correctly, these cases also voice a deeper demand: they point to the necessity, and expediency, of promoting lines of research that aim to generate a technological, organisational platform able to encourage similar life and production models.

Low material, energy and transport intensity production and service networks; business models based on complex partnerships that are also able to generate benefit for the environment and society; forms of locally rooted but globally connected urban and territorial organisation; processes for setting up evolved communities and support platforms for participatory democracy; …