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편집자 주/ 희망제작소는 2008년 10월 8일부터 11일까지 4일 동안 ‘사회창안주간’을 개최했다. 사회창안주간은 사회창안대회, 사회창안 국제회의, 불만합창단으로 구성되었다. 이 기사는 사회창안 국제회의 첫째날(10월 9일) 행사 기사를 영문으로 번역한 것이다.

“How would it be to use ‘No-lae bang’ (singing rooms) during the middle of the day as conference spaces?”

“During the credit card settlement time, let’s make it necessary to input a 4-digit secret code. At present, it is too dangerous.”

“It would be good if we could designate the third week of October for Chusok (harvest festival) so that one can plan consecutive holidays.”

The lively ideas bouncing around delighted the participants of the very first International Conference on Social Invention. The citizens’ imagination-laden social invention ideas filled the walls along the staircase leading to the second floor auditorium of the Myongdong Korean Federation of Banks Convention Hall. With “Social Invention without Borders” as their motto, participants from all over the world have gathered to share freely their thinking and experiences in this widely opened space. This article will convey the landscape of the first day of International Conference on Social Invention, which was convened on the 9th at the Myongdong Convention Hall. It was a time filled with imagination and inspiration that matched the original ideas that the citizens had gathered. Everyone is invited to this site.

Many Millions around the World Committed to Social Invention

“Inside daily life, the policy proposal method of mutual communication with citizens is an example of good governance that should be sought by all nations and cities. It is of help in strengthening the capability of civil society and in establishing governmental policy.” (Kim Young-ho, first vice minister, Ministry of Public Administration and Security)

“As the Wikipedia phenomenon tells, the small and big ideas of ordinary citizens that have come from within their daily lives are excellent means of changing the world and when these ideas are able to operate as a pathway, social invention can be realized.” (Kim Chang-guk, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Hope Institute)

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With the welcoming address, the curtain was raised on the International Conference on Social Invention. The first presenter to go up to the podium was Mr. Geoff Mulgan, Director of the Young Foundation. The Young Foundation, a public foundation based in England, is engaging in lively activities in the field of social invention.

“We hold an explicit point of view regarding social design. When an idea emerges, even if it is one that is small in scope, right away we experiment and act on it. Our scholarly traditions differ, and our governmental practices differ. But I believe that we can learn a great deal about being able to act more quickly.”

Director Geoff Mulgan introduced an example of an activity in the field of education. “School of Everything,” the online educational program launched in September of this year works in both directions, and is one in which anyone can teach and anyone can learn. With the entire world as their neighbor, netizens can learn the Vietnamese language or teach the methods for installing solar power generators on roofs.

“Everyone will likely be surprised to hear that there are many millions of people around the world participating in social invention. From citizen organizations to social enterprises, there are many fields that include social invention and social invention is also developing regionally and locally.

This year, the Young Foundation launched the online site “SIX” (Social Innovation Exchange), the first site where all the world’s groups concerned with social invention can engage in interchanges. In this space, those from Spain, United States, China, Australia, among various other places in the world, can share ideas that they have grown and participants can freely own these ideas together.

Nowadays, social invention is not only one society, but rather something that rises from a new dynamism that is moving the entire earth.

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Director Geoff Mulgan also suggested assignments that social organizations will have to solve in the future. Among the assignments are the diversification of resource procurement; systematization of methods for developing small ideas into big ideas; and strengthening the incubator role of connecting ideas with money, strength, and government. Also important is the issue of how to secure a much larger role for social invention in the debates regarding the establishment of policy measures and social change.

“We live in an era in which potential is high and opportunities can be found. This is even more so because we are at a critical economic moment. This period in which capitalism is retreating is a time in which much more socially pertinent productivity and creativity can emerge. This period will become an opportunity to newly utilize social assets, including social invention, that have not received attention in the past.”

Citizens and District Residents, Becoming Happy through Ideas

One need not cross an ocean to see an example of social invention. Even in Seoul, where we already walk on its ground, we can perceive a significant transformation. Participant in the conference, Mr. Ra Jin-gu, Vice Mayor of Seoul Metropolitan Government, introduced “Inventive City Government,” an example of social invention that Seoul city is pushing ahead.

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“If you define ‘Inventive City Government’ by a single phrase, you can express it as “Think from the citizens’ perspective.’ By bringing the qualities of originality and creativity to even minor daily work, all Seoul City public employees are appreciated by the citizen-clients and continue to improve.

For this reason, in 2006, Seoul City launched an “Imagination Bank” suggestion window person for Seoul City employees and began operating the system “Million Imagination Oasis,” where citizens can freely set forth ideas concerning the city government. After citizens suggest their opinions through an online space [“e-People”], those in charge of policy can directly join heads with citizens and hold a “Realization Conference” in order to guide the ideas into reality.

In the past two years, through the “Million Imagination Oasis” citizens have poured out ideas on 16,095 subjects. Delivering multi-language magazines about Korea delivered to the multicultural families, starting new, small enterprises together with Seoul City, and lowering hand straps in the Metro for shorter passengers are among the examples of citizens’ ideas that have become reality.

The example introduced by Lee No-gun, Director of the Nowon District Office, also expands one’s vision. The Nowon District is championing a “Social Agenda Marketing Leadership” and the ideas gained from public officials, students and citizens are reflected constructively in the District’s policies.

The deliberation structure with a small number bureaucracy and central government at its core possesses the special qualities of small expenditure and efficiency.

If in the past, the leadership had been a leader-centered vertical one, social agenda marketing leadership is based on originality and ideas, with a horizontal consultation determination structure among those making policy.

As a result of the Nowon District’s social agenda marketing, Seoul City’s Passport Issuing Agency has made a big leap. If all districts imposed levies in a standardized manner, the proportion of public welfare allotment fees would vary according to the circumstances of each district’s public finance, and there would be a reform in the system of burden sharing.

“We always insist that social expenditures can be reduced by 40% through agenda marketing. We also think that through this, the society’s competitiveness is being raised. Since commencing agenda marketing, each year the public finance sum has reached 60 billion won and has become balanced and more secure.”

Social Invention is a prism, social invention is a microphone

The government by its own efforts alone cannot search for it. Ko Kyu-chang, Director of General Administrative Division of the Ministry of Public Administration and Security stated, “Generally foreign countries’ policies are formed with the civil society at its center, but differently in Korea, a government-centered policy structure is in operation.

“Presently, we respond within thirty days to ideas provided by citizens. With regard to good ideas, compensation and recognition can arise out of them. In different countries, this process is systematized through a presidential decree.”

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Following the establishment in 2005 of the “Gookmin Shinmun-go,” the online People’s Petition Home Page, the number of citizens’ proposals increased precipitously. In the last year alone, more than 40,000 suggestions were received. Currently, more than 90% of the citizens’ proposals are received via online.

By taking the complaints and discomforts that citizens feel in daily life and developing them into ideas, proposing them in real time, inquiring into the handling and outcomes, citizens can participate in the policy determination process. This can narrow the distance between citizens and the government, and become the impetus for reform of ills and problem areas.

Kim-Lee Seung-hyun, Manager of the Hope Institute’s Social Invention Center, took the stage as the representative of the civil society community.

“I will tell a small but hope-filled story,” Manager Kim began, and she laid down this explicit definition: “Social invention is a prism, social invention is a microphone.”

Manager Kim introduced the Hope Institute’s Social Invention Center’s process of taking the ideas from the seedling stage to sprouts, to trees and finally to the fruit stage and the present status of the 3,621 ideas that have been taken through this process. She also unraveled the bundle of citizens’ ideas that have become realized in three years.

“The pregnancy care badge that we advanced in 2006 recently appeared on the TV drama ‘Working Mom.’ The campaign to improve government vehicles and save tax funds by switching to smaller cars received a response from the Ministry of Public Administration that it would reduce emissions by one unit. For the sit-down buses, many citizens proposed the idea of a “No Open Seat” display, and this has recently become a piping hot reality.

Matthias Trenel, Director of Germany’s nonprofit organization Zebralog, gave his presentation as the first day’s last speaker. Zebralog is an organization with the objective of democracy exploration through internet participation that was founded five years ago.

“I would like to share with everyone our organization’s three core beliefs. The first belief is that we believe that a new form of democracy can be shaped through the internet and new communication technologies like it. The second belief is that the democracy’s viewpoint process has to be changed to have more clarity. Not only business entities and lobbyists but ordinary citizens must also be able to easily provide their ideas and points of view to the government. The third belief is that we think that not only the internet but various media should unite with the internet to become the instrument for a democracy with more energetic participation.”

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Director Matthias Trenel introduced concrete examples from activities conducted over five years. As the examples were presented one by one, participants could not help but admire the surprising successes realized by German citizens.

“Currently, Germany’s decades-long sought after middle-path between capitalism and socialism is receiving challenges. With no relation to the supporting political parties, this course had received sympathy of the citizens, but the result that came out of a public opinion survey was that the ‘balance is lost.’ The Bettlesmann public foundation has formed a citizens conference and plans to debate the economic reform agenda. Four hundred citizens, selected randomly among college age and various education levels, have been invited to an all-medium dialogue program. These persons meet face to face over the weekend and hold debate about what are the most pressing social problems. By vote, they designate some as points at issue and once again in two months through an online program that Zebralog has devised, hold a debate that a greater number of citizens can participate in.

“As a result, a large number of proposals have been assembled in a citizens’ charter. These were proposed to and have been adopted by the German council. The citizens’ charter, which contains all fifty-five proposal items, has become the emblem of the German council. The citizens did not debate about the political cause and effect by different party factions; instead of fighting, they concentrated on finding solutions. There is a feeling of pride in having preserved each participant’s different perspective while leading the public to mutual agreement.”

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As one by one each presenter finished, participants poured out questions. Mindful of the progress of the proceedings, the moderator stated a number of times that “No more questions will be received” to restrain the participants whose intellectual curiosity was demonstrably heated.

After all of the presentations ended, the first day’s program concluded with presentations of inventions by the first, second and third place winners of the Social Invention Competition. The social invention experts gathered from the world gave lavish cheer to the original ideas and passion shown by the awardees.

The International Conference on Social Invention will be held at the same place tomorrow (10th). On the second day of the conference, one can meet social invention examples from Japan, Hong Kong, Finland and other nations. We invite everyone to this place of festival that befits democracy, citizen participation and social invention.

Material gathering, writing/Lee Hyun-gu (Freelance contributor)
Photos/Park Jin-heui (Photographer)
Volunteer Translator (CORI)/Park Ji Won

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