Interview with Mattia Martini – researcher at the University of Milano-Bicocca
Q1: You have recently engaged your students in a mapping activity that involves the elements of nomination, assessment and management of Sustainable Innovations facilitated by the CASI Framework (CASI-F protocols and tools). Can you tell us more about it?
A: "In February 2017 I got involved in a new course on 'Management and Social Entrepreneurship' within the Master's degree programme in Management and Service Design at UNIMIB. It is a blended course, where traditional classroom lessons are alternated with online sessions and a project work to be carried by students. As project work activity the students were assigned the application of CASI-F to a new sustainable innovation (SI) case. In small groups (max 3-4 students per group) the students were asked to:
- nominate a Sustainable Innovation case
- map the SI case (in terms of practices, outcomes and players)
- identify critical issues related to the case
- develop an Action Plan/Roadmap to support SI management
Each group has to complete the above steps using the CASI platform and involving one or more stakeholders from the case. The students were provided with supporting material; including CASI project reports (Deliverables 2.1, 2.2, and 6.2), CASI webinar sessions, PDF examples of 4 fully mapped SI cases from CASIPEDIA. The students will present their work to course lecturers and other students in a classroom session".
Q2. How many new cases have been nominated by the students so far and upgraded to full mapping? are more nominations expected?
A: "As of today, 17 new SI cases have been nominated and accepted for full mapping based on the review of information and relevance assessment conducted by me. The initiatives address different type of innovations; most referring to product, service and social innovation. Since the activity is still ongoing, few more cases may be nominated in the coming days but as the total number of students is 45 I think we are about to reach the target".
Q3. Would the students work independently or would the mapped cases be a result of wider engagement and co-creation?
A: "Once the overall instruction about the content and structure of CASI-F and CASIPEDIA were presented to students in two sessions (2hr each), the students started off the group work. Students who entered the selected cases into the system were able to invite other students to co-create the case (i.e. all invitees have rights to contribute). The students were also asked to contact innovators, who can be invited to review and collaborate in the mapping process. Minimum engagement with the innovators that is required from students is to conduct an interview with the innovator in order to complete the full mapping. Depending on the availability and interest of the innovators, they can be involved in a 2nd meeting to jointly assess and prioritise SI-related critical issues and define an action plan for improved management of SI. It will be really interesting for us to know how many innovators got engaged in the process and which elements/stages of it were most useful for them (this information would be available by end of March 2017)".
Q4. What is the students' overall attitude towards this Mobilisation and Mutual Learning initiative (i.e. bottom-up and crowdsourced mapping of SI)? What is the level of their engagement and motivation?
A: "In the preliminary sessions, when the students were presented with the assignment description they were a bit afraid as it appeared quite challenging to them. In particular, the fact that the case and the action plan had to be mapped in CASIPEDIA using English language.
However, from the beginning of the assignment I have seen them strongly motivated and soon after they started nominating and mapping the cases. Most students had immediate ideas about initiatives they wanted to map, which related to a product or service they heard/came across eventually and consider interesting. The students then started contacting the innovators and receiving positive responses regarding their availability and willingness to collaborate, which is very encouraging and will further motivate the students, in my opinion".
Note: Between 16th of February and end of March 2017, nearly 700 online activities (edits/updates) and 49 invites to cases were recorded in the system. These are related to the 17 cases that are still being mapped by UNIMIB students and the numbers increase each day. Additional evidence of high level of engagement from students includes the fact that some of these activities took place during weekends and at unusual times.
Q5. What is the added value of conducting such exercise? For students, lecturers, innovators, and for sustainability/innovation oriented courses in general?
A: "I am fully convinced that the mapping exercise applying CASI-F is very useful for students and lecturers. I will have a full picture of CASI-F potential at the end of the exercise, but by now I can affirm what follows.
In my opinion, the most positive and interesting things for students are:
- The application of CASI-F to a real case is considered a good opportunity to learn-by doing, in a way better and more interactive than the traditional and mainly theoretical lessons.
- Practically applying CASI-F does not only enhance the ability of students to analyse SI cases, but it also forces students to critically analyse the case and to reason when proposing possible solutions for SI development.
- The students feel they are doing something that could be useful not only for them, but also for the innovator (who may benefit from receiving feedback and proposals for the development of its innovation).
- They are proud to be “involved”, contribute, and do what researchers and professors from UNIMIB have done themselves, in an EC-funded research project (i.e. CASI).
For lecturers and the course in general:
- Lecturers can rely on a well-structured procedure for analysing SI initiatives, which does not need to be strongly modified to be used in the context of a Master's course.
- Plenty of comprehensive supporting material is already available for students to better understand the overall CASI-F procedure (students can then work autonomously in most of the steps). The upcoming CASI online training course will further reinforce this aspect.
- By contacting and interacting with innovators (potential employers), the students not only widen their network within the labour market but also promote the “Management and Social Entrepreneurship” course, which may be of interest to start ups, SME’s, and alike.
- In general, I have a positive feeling about the potential use of CASI-F in university courses. Particularly when it comes to area of sustainability and innovation (still under-researched and ambiguous in nature), it is very useful to allow students to deepen the topic by working in the field (by directly interacting with innovators).
With regards to innovators, we would be very interested in knowing whether they have found any added value in the collaboration with our students and look forward to receiving their feedback at the end of the project’s work".
Q6. Would you consider the engagement of students as a useful strategy to support (content-wise) the sustainability of CASIPEDIA?
A: "Perhaps, but I believe that some peer review processes will be needed to ensure the quality of inputs".
On behalf of the CASI project we would like to thank Mattia for his proactive participation and engagement in the dissemmination and promotion of CASI-F within the research and education community in Italy.