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Is our society sustainable?

The overriding imperative for our society is economic growth. The engine of this growth is innovation, the creation of new kinds of artifacts.

But the increasing threatens of environmental, social and economic crises urge us to pose a question: is “the innovation society” sustainable?

We in INSITE are investigating whether Western society's innovation processes and its dependence on them might lie at the root of the sustainability crises.

And if so – what can be done about it?

  • Towards an agenda for social innovation

  • Is the innovation society sustainable?

  • How can innovation be focused and directed?

    Can its direction be provided by civil society rather than the market?



INSITE regularly organizes workshops, seminars, lectures, etc. to confront with others, stimulate the dialogue and cultivate its community. These events may be held in Venice or in other European locations when organized by one of INSITE's partners and friends. Please check our events calendar and availability.

Read our papers

INSITE's network of scholars constantly write academic papers on Innovation, Sustainability, Technology and other relevant themes.

Contact us

INSITE is an open community: if you want to publish an article or you have any idea or project you would like to share, please contact us.

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/// What is INSITE

The INSITE project is funded by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme (2007-2013) under grant agreement n ° 271574

INSITE’s principle purpose is to contribute to a sustainable future for society and the environment: our consortium includes scientists and practitioners from a varied range of disciplines and organizations.

/// From the blog

  • “Come to Venice” awarded of the Journalism Price for Venice

    Author: Insite Staff Comments: 3 Date: 25 Sep 2014
    “Come to Venice“, the artistic documentary by Benedetta Panisson, will be shortly honoured with one of the most important academic award. The Istituto Veneto’s Journalism Price for Venice Award, (ex æquo with Dirk Schümer Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagzeitung journalist) bestowed on works dedicated to Venice future, safeguard and nature. The awards ceremony will be at 11 [...]
  • Stories of change: your ideas for a sustainable future

    Author: Insite Staff Comments: 1 Date: 21 Jul 2014
    The globalised society is going out of control, for many reasons. The innovation ideology, which dominates current political and economic discourse, emphasizes the importance of priming the pump of technical invention as the only way for tackling the social, economic and environmental crises which challenge the sustainability of our societies. But this faith in the [...]
  • Women experiencing domestic violence

    Author: Insite Staff Comments: 0 Date: 16 Jun 2014
    How can we support more women to stand on their own two feet? When they’ve just left an abusive relationship. For a shelter. That’s surrounded by fences. To keep them safe? That’s the question we started with, 3 months ago, as we got to know 18 women living at a domestic violence shelter in Apeldoorn. A mid-size [...]

/// Mobilizing civil society and ICT

Read the latest news about ICT tools and social innovations designed to mobilize civil society.

/// Latest articles

  • Towards an agenda for social innovation

    Author: David Lane Comments: 0 Date: 05 Feb 2014
    Ten years ago very few people were talking about social innovation; five years ago, President Barroso put social innovation on the European Commission policy agenda; now social innovation has become a bandwagon, attracting attention from many national and local governments, inspiring many young people to explore new career opportunities that combine entrepreneurialism with the desire for social relevance, challenging traditional patterns of social engagement as practiced by cooperatives and civil society organizations. But “social innovation” is more a rallying cry than it is a coherent vision or strategy for societal level social transformation. This document puts forward a proposal for such a vision, by contextualizing social innovation as a possible way forward from our society’s current system of organizing its transformation processes, a system we call the Innovation Society. We describe four principles that we think should be at the foundation of a systemic theory of social innovation, and we develop some of the strategic implications of these principles – thus providing a basis for an action agenda for social innovation. We conclude with some tactical considerations: a set of projects we would like to launch, to begin to realize the agenda our document implies. Download the Manifesto in PDF
  • Is the Innovation Society Sustainable?

    Author: Sander van der Leeuw Comments: 0 Date: 29 Aug 2012
    From the perspective of the archaeologist/historian and anthropologist we can compare the ups and downs of many civilizations and societies at different timescales, in different natural environments, both in the present and the past. Whether one looks at the Roman, Sassanian, Spanish, British, or American Empires, or at small-scale societies in Africa or Papua New Guinea such as the Huli, in each case a group of people constructs a way of living together, exploits it and grows in size and footprint to a full-scale society with many institutions, and ultimately disintegrates. Disintegration entails the dispersal of people, throwing them back on fending for themselves rather than depending on their group synergies for their survival. There may then follow a phase of reconstruction so that another society emerges, organized differently, with different means of subsistence and a different organization and institutions. Of course, people have been aware of this for a very long time – Gibbon, Spencer and countless others have described the rise and fall of civilizations.
    Read More
  • Loser and Sfigato

    Author: Michele Zappia Comments: 7 Date: 21 Aug 2012
    Some months ago the Italian vice minister of labor and social policy, Michel Martone, said that “Anyone who hasn’t graduated by the age of 28 is a sfigato”. “Sfigato” means loser.
    Read More

/// Our perspective

INSITE project is based upon some fundamental assumptions:

  • The way in which our society is organized has become more and more dependent on innovation, simply intended as the ability to constantly generate new artifacts.
  • The social, cultural and technological aspects of innovation processes are inextricably linked through a positive feedback dynamic.
  • This positive feedback dynamic generates inherently unpredictable externalities that can threaten the sustainability of the environment and social organization itself.
  • The only way society can respond to this is by changing the way in which it monitors, evaluates and engages in the processes through which it transforms its own organization.

In order to achieve this, a deeper mobilization of civil society through its active engagement in participatory policy projects is needed. Read more »