Hertie School and Leuphana University Lüneburg to research digital collaborative initiative UpdateDeutschland

Johanna Mair and Thomas Gegenhuber will further study on how Open Social Innovation can generate solutions to big social problems.

Johanna Mair, Professor of Organisation, Strategy and Leadership at the Hertie School, and a research team will closely follow and study the project UpdateDeutschland, a digital collaborative initiative endorsed by the German Chancellery, as it takes place over the next year. The idea is to learn more about how such events can mobilise viable solutions to big social problems like discrimination, equality in public education, or digitalisation of the public sector.

Mair will lead the team together with Thomas Gegenhuber, Assistant Professor for Digital Transformation at Leuphana University Lüneburg, in a second research project on so-called Open Social Innovation. In 2020/21, they accompanied the experimental project #WirVsVirus, which aimed to generate solutions to pandemic-related problems. They mobilised around 28,000 citizens, and 130 ideas were selected for further development and implementation – many of which generated visible impact. Open Social Innovation at such a scale is a relatively new process, in which an open call is issued to all sectors of society (civil society, public and private sectors) to participate – from generating ideas to scaling solutions.

UpdateDeutschland: Joint learning effort on Open Social Innovation continues

Now, Johanna Mair, Thomas Gegenhuber, and Hertie School Research Associsates René Lührsen and Laura Thäter continue their research as neutral learning partners for UpdateDeutschland, an approach that has been endorsed by the German Federal Chancellery and the organisers. “Our objective is to understand the potential of technology-supported participatory Open Social Innovation as a method to tackle societal challenges and face crisis situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Johanna Mair. According to Thomas Gegenhuber, “This approach allows us to track and closely observe the initiative, develop a holistic perspective, and offer insights for policy and practice in real time.”

UpdateDeutschland was launched in March 2021 and puts many lessons learned from the #WirvsVirus format into practice (see the #WirvsVirus learning report). In UpdateDeutschland, public actors (such as municipalities) are given more responsibility and are involved at all stages of the innovation process - from posing challenges to testing and implementing solutions. The German Chancellery and 11 state governments support the initiative.

The research team received funding from the Vodafone Foundation Germany to generate learnings from #WirvsVirus. From July 2021 onwards the Volkswagen Foundation will support the scientific part of this research project.


The full learning report to #WirvsVirus is available in German here.

The policy brief to #WirvsVirus is available in German and English here.

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