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3 A Social Learning Process

ways of acting and being. A diffused social innovation that, if recognised by companies, could indicate a new demand for products, services and new directions for technological development. Promising cases of social innovation, as we saw in the paragraph about new consumer’s roles, could be the incentives for system innovation and the benchmark for the development of a new generation of intrinsically more eco-efficient products, services and production–consumption systems. Let us consider the same simple examples in the aforementioned paragraph: the experience with co-habitation services could be the threshold for new instruments of unprecedented residential functions. Solutions that make available healthier and natural food or create direct relations with the producers can offer a new shape for the whole network of food production, delivery, and consumption. Examples of localised or auto-production can conceive new production processes and new products meant specially for these kinds of activities. Experience with alternative means of transport can make place for new kinds of public transport. If interpreted correctly, these cases of social innovation represent new specific demands for product–service systems to which the companies should answer9.

Box 3.2 Systemic Approach in the Era of the Internet Systemic thinking and operating mean by definition moving up one level in complexity, and has always been so. But confronting this complexity today is a bit different from the last few decades for two reasons. First, the usual technological (and technocratic) approach has been replaced by a socio-technological approach; second, because the working environments have moved from low to high connectivity, as we have entered into the era of networks. The first reasons could be summarised as follows. The traditional way of dealing with systems was to define them in technical terms and then try to manage them. This approach never went too far. Today, this approach has been overturned: the system is defined on the basis of what is thought to be operatively manageable. At the same time, we know that, to have a manageable, and therefore, designable socio-technological system, convergence has to take place among all the actors involved, i. e. all of them have to share the same idea about the results to be obtained and the way to do it. The practicability of the systemic approach is traced back to the creation of result-oriented partnerships. The issue of creating result-oriented partnerships is a crucial breakpoint for all enterprises (or more generally for every organisation) that actually want to adopt a structural strategy towards sustainability. This issue entails taking into 9

Not only do they propose another relative demand for the general reorientation of the production–consumption system. The organisational models and some business models offered by some creative communities could indicate for research and development new organisational and technological platforms: service infrastructures for residential structures and polycentric production; an electricity grid based on distributed production; structures for incubating new complex partnerships; supporting systems of newly evolved participatory democracy.

Design for Environmental Sustainability  

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