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Carrefour des innovations sociales / Social innovation Crossroad

Social innovations offer many new solutions to today’s challenges. Yet, they encounter difficulties in becoming known. Social innovation Crossroad offers a precise vision of social innovations in France. To do so, a search engine gives access to 5000 projects already capitalized by 50 actors. Financers, coaches, academics and projects holders now get reliable information, automatically up-to-date and enter a new community. Small as well as big projects are highlighted the same way.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

Social innovation offers today new solutions to 21st century challenges of mobility, housing, education, etc. Even if these projects are numerous on the ground, they encounter troubles to become known, scale-up and inspire the evolution of public policies. Through a casual internet research, you may find only the 5 most known of every domain and it is hard for everyone to get a complete vision of what is going on.

As an answer, Social Innovations Crossroad gathers every actor that already highlights social innovations to get a collective approach to the problem, considering the wealth of information on social innovations as a Common. 50 actors from public institutions, networks, foundations, or associations are today federated in a community. Their daily work includes supporting diverse social innovations from employment issues to social economy, ecology or web access. The Commissariat général à l’égalité des territoires (CGET) works in tandem with La Fonda, an associative think-tank, to impulse and moderate the project.

Thanks to an open-source scraping application, 5 000 projects can be ‘’read’’ directly from the websites of the partners and accessible through one search engine. 2 more custom-made applications guarantee that flow of heterogeneous data is aggregated, consolidated and readable. No effort neither from the contributors, nor from the users of the search engine is asked. A reliable, up-to-date and complete view of social innovations in France is starting to get accessible to everyone. More contributors are daily joining the project and 10 000 projects will soon be accessible in every French territory.

Social Innovations Crossroad is managed in a collective manner, every member of the community being placed on an equal level. An open definition of social innovation has been adopted, every member being guarantor of the innovative approach of the projects he shares in the search engine. The aim is clear; to provide an immediate access to every social innovation projects disseminated on numerous websites, covering the whole diversity of social innovation, all over France. The community also works on analysing social innovations gathered and improving the methods to convey the teachings between the projects.

Social Innovations Crossroad now enables coaches, financiers of social innovations and academics :
o To find innovative projects for prospective purposes or benchmark use ;
o To localize projects in territories and understand territorial ecosystems of projects they support or may support ;
o To measure social innovation trends and emerging themes at the national or at a territorial level ;
o To boost the potential of social innovations through direct links between projects holder and better visibility.

And tomorrow? Since its conception with the partners in 2017, the reflection about the institutionalisation of such a collective and innovative process has been enhanced. With the support of an external audit, an association has been created in December 2017.
For the development phase, 2 public interest entrepreneurs bring digital expertise (one web developer and one UX/UI designer) from January to November 2018, financed by the State Programme d’Investissement d’Avenir (“future investment program’’). What’s more, the project also associates private financial partners for the 3 next years. For instance, it is now financed by the National Federation of Caisse d’Epargne, one leading bank in France and a foundation, the Fondation La France s’engage.

As advised in the external audit, a whole reflection of the business model for the operating phase of Social innovation Crossroad will be concluded in about a year (after 2 years of development). Activities of adapting and teaching the use of the applications designed to scrape, aggregate, consolidate and view the data are already been tested.

Innovation Description

What Makes Your Project Innovative?

First, it is a social Innovation :
o Every actor already highlighting social innovations can join the community and participate to the governance of a Common;
o They don’t have to fill again all the information, their websites are automatically scraped;
o An open approach of social innovation is adopted, trusting the professionalism of the members of the community and guaranteeing a holistic approach

Moreover, it is a digital Innovation :
o An investment has been made on conception and development of custom-made applications to scrap, aggregate, consolidate and visualize heterogeneous data
o These applications are open-source in an operational way. They are starting to be adapted to other needs of actors working the public interest

What is the current status of your innovation?

• 2017 - Co-conception of Social Innovations Crossroad : elaboration of a charter, external audit to work on the business plan and creation of an association
• April 2018 - Social Innovations Crossroad Beta website is launched. OpenScraper, the scraping application and Apiviz, the visualising application are developed
• October 30th, 2018 - Opening Social Innovations Crossroad website is launched (end of the Beta period), 10 000 projects now accessible online
• January 2019 - Large communication on the opening of Social Innovations Crossroad website including a national mapping of social innovations. Solidata, the application to consolidate and aggregate data is finished

Innovation Development

Collaborations & Partnerships

The community gathers institutions, networks, foundations and associations including 3 financial partners: State Programme d’Investissement d’Avenir, the National Federation of Caisse d’Epargne (FNCE), and the Fondation La France s’engage. They all participate to the governance; meeting twice a year for strategic orientations. A steering committee is composed of the 6 members, meeting every 2 months to pilot the development. Workshops are also organised.

Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries

Parts of our beneficiaries are the members of the community. Our designer led 20 interviews with them and potentials beneficiaries in January. The Beta website aims at inviting beneficiaries to give feedback. User tests are also regularly led, focusing on qualitative feedback from our prior beneficiaries: financiers, coaches of social innovations and academics. One experimentation is led with each of them: the FNCE, ATIS (a social business incubator) and Institut Godin (a research center).

Innovation Reflections

Results, Outcomes & Impacts

So far, the results are :
• 50 actors involved in Social Innovations Crossroad
• 10 000 projects accessible on the search engine developed with a user-centric approach
• 3 web applications developed
• 119 tweets and 469 followers

The methodology used is an assessment of the situation at each steering committee.
Impacts expected in the future are:
• to facilitate the appropriation of every social innovation, objective of showing 20 000 projects taking place in every French territory;
• to equip the digital transformation of social innovation actors: to equip 3 new projects of one or several applications developed during the following year;
• and to boost cooperation between actors : project holders, financiers, academics and coaches.

Challenges and Failures

Two main challenges encountered are :
• Leading a project that is bothpartner-based and lean, in the administration. Before being joined by two “public interest entrepreneurs”, challenges have been to mobilize an IT service provider for small tasks (POC, MVP), not being the only beneficiary of the service and having an iterative approach: not knowing in advance what the result. To candidate and having been awarded by the ”public interest entrepreneurs” allowing us to have 2 digital experts joining the project team for 10 months;

• Consolidate information with unequal data in order to offer a quality service, including a geo-localisation of every project. It has been more difficult than what we expected. As an answer, we got support for a new developer to go further on the website in order to deliver a new version at the end of October. This strategy helps to answer to the expectations of our beneficiaries and let our team focus of more difficult web development.

Conditions for Success

As for as our experience is concerned, conditions for success may have been
• Leading a collective policy : to get together 50 actors of diverse backgrounds and built a common interest in the project, letting every actor finding a role in the group without asking too much
• Getting IT engineering within the team : having one UX/UI designer and one web developer working in pairs for a complex project
• Enough financial resource to get a team composed of people that mobilizes partners, leads the project and get a strong enough digital team
• Personal motivation: looking at the project as a Common, experiencing new collective governance, including questions of structuration of the organisation, of business model, of contribution of every partner, of open-source of the web applications, etc.


Two ways are being considered today to replicate part of the project :
• Adapt the web applications to help other projects aggregate, consolidate and visualize data. The 3 applications supporting Social Innovations Crossroad have been designed and developed in order to be easily adapted. An adaptation may start in the few months with the French Finance Ministry in order to give a clear vision of all the actors helping for an inclusive web (in French : ‘’médiation numérique’’)
• Start an European benchmark with the AEIDL association in order to see if such a hub could be enhanced at an European level. Meetings with the European Commission at the Web Summit are organised in Lisbon early November in that objective.

Lessons Learned

There are two main lessons that I’d like to share :
• As far as a web interface is concerned, start small with a MVP (minimal viable product), get the maximum of both quantitative and qualitative user feedbacks and go bigger progressively, answering to the needs of the beneficiaries

• Digital is just the tool: get the project sustainable by enhancing a collective group carrying a national policy, a vision of the project in 3 years, common rules of governance, of collective work.

Project Pitch

Year: 2017
Level of Government: National/Federal government


  • Implementation - making the innovation happen
Call for Innovations Call for Innovations
This case was submitted as part of the Call for Innovations, an annual partnership initiative between OPSI and the UAE Mohammed Bin Rashid Center for Government Innovation (MBRCGI)

Innovation provided by:

Date Published:

17 October 2017

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