What is ACSI?
ACSI is the Aalto Camp for Societal Innovation.
It is an instrument for addressing societal challenges in a powerful and effective way. It combines an entrepreneurial way of thinking & working with a concrete process for developing breakthrough ideas and insights, aiming at producing real-world impact. Participants from diverse countries and disciplines work together to discover and leverage in-and-out-of-the-box opportunities for creating breakthroughs in a process of collaborative solution seeking. ACSI increases our possibilities, opens channels for new thinking, helps people to go beyond the ordinary, and expand their insights into how to tackle societal innovation issues.
The New Club of Paris and Finland’s Aalto University co-developed ACSI. Since 2010 it has been run 8 times, in different forms, in Finland (Espoo, Helsinki and Kotka), Sweden (Malmö), and South Africa (Johannesburg), and Germany. ACSI is still evolving, creating new work forms appropriate for different contexts and different challenges, both strategic and operational, and at the local, regional and transnational level, addressing both social and business issues, as long as the goal is creating lasting societal impact.
In recent years ACSI has been used as a generic term describing an innovative, inclusive, open process dealing with societal challenges, often on a global scale
How does it work?
During a three to five day Camp, multidisciplinary groups develop new ideas and perspectives about real-world challenges brought to the camp by cities, regions, business organizations, universities and NGO’s. The work process is designed to support self-organizing groups working in creative, open environments. After the Camp, prototypes of promising ideas are tested and improved at locations where the issues occur. This supports an open, co-creative innovation process in the real world. At the Camps, participants from diverse backgrounds, countries and ages work together in largely self-organizing groups. The lightly facilitated work process is designed to continuously frame and reframe the issues, problems, and assumptions relevant to a challenge. This leads to the creation of a range of new perspectives – new lenses through which the issues can be better understood and entrepreneurial ways of dealing with them. The prototyping period after the Camp is an integral part of the ACSI process. Follow-through takes place at diverse and relevant locations, with direct stakeholder engagement. Living labs and (urban) test-beds may be part of this co-creation process. This leads to more robust prototypes, practical experiments, pilots and – with sufficient commitment – plans for fast-track realization.
Why does it work?
ACSI is a human-centred process, which begins when key people commit to take the results further. Supported self-organization drives the process, and allows diverse partners to co-create new possibilities. Cross-disciplinary creativity, collective intelligence and prototyping are cornerstones of the ACSI process. The focus on follow-through and stakeholder involvement makes it different than other many camp formulas and hackathons.
There are dozens of innovation instruments and diverse methodologies for social renewal, and hundreds of workshops take place every year, often producing promising results. But many fail to move beyond the output of the events themselves to create lasting effect in society. ACSI has shown that this can be done, even when dealing with complicated and complex issues.
Focus on the need for concrete outcomes and societal impact after the Camp builds forward momentum. Thorough attention to the whole process –the preparation, the face-to-face and virtual interaction, the prototyping period, and the follow-through at diverse locations – contributes to its success.