Online ethnography on failed social innovation projects

Antiheroes took part in the ECF (European Cultural Foundation) Idea Camp few weeks ago. More info The initiative, promoted by ECF + 7 cultural hubs in EU and neighbor countries, targeted ideas that engage people in re- defining and shaping public space in Europe.

As one of the 50 finalists we’re now competing for 25 R&D grants (max € 10,000 each) to make our idea grow. Short recap:

ANTIHEROES MISSION: create a safe space to talk about failure in the context of the social innovation movement. We are following a gut feeling telling us that many initiatives are there to create social change but very few people are sharing what’s not working. Mistakes are reapeted and collective learning isn’t happening at a meaningful scale.

We want to start a conversation on failures on the Edgeryders platform and conduct online ethnography. Goal: exploratory (for us) + helping the  50 ECF Idea Camp participants developing ideas on how to re-shape public space not repeating recurrent mistakes thanks to our findings.

I will upload our research proposal during this weekend, any feedback is more than welcome.

Got it now…

Thanks, during today’s call I wasn’t making the connection between Antiheroes and ethnography, so thanks for clarifying. You are setting yourselves for a very interesting task, I remember in year 1 of Edgeryders it was popping up quite a lot, you can easily see that in a quick website search of “failure” (11 pages of results most of which are individual projects as a background)…  and luckily from what I understand your timeline is longer than the one for developing the Open Ethnographer software. So you have probably more space and time to generate a larger conversation for the context of your analysis. Happy to help in any way I can, keep us posted!

And don’t forget to join the Open Ethnographer group to be notified when Inga and Matthias will be keeping us up to date…


And sorry again about my connection, internet speed isn’t the first value of Belgium :D. Do you think we should also include those existing 11 pages on the word failure in our ethnography?  It might take longer but we have 12 months available, it should be ok. The budget might change, though.

I just found STF project details (timeline, milestones,etc.) here and the budget here.

If these are the final documents - I already have the report - I’m going to reframe now our proposal based on STF experience.

More practical question: how can I change the links’ title? I cannot find the function. Thanks!


I just meant to say people there’s some evidence that failure is definitely of interest as a community topic, but I have no idea what is your specific reference, so can’t advise on what content to incorporate in your analysis…

As for a project description, I looked it up in our google docs, and here it is, hope it helps…

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Answer to your practical question: Type the text you want to show. Select it, then click the link button (looks like a link in a chain). That brings up a box, where you can paste the URL. Like so.

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I think this is a really good idea and welcome the initiative

Let me know if I can be of help.

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I like this!

That’s  a very good idea. We seem collectively quite bad at learning from failure. It mostly seems to happen on an individual level – you learn not to repeat the mistakes that you yourself have previously made, but nothing about the mistakes of others.

I find unMonastery book of errors inspiring, as an attempt to learn from failure.

You might also want to look at how project managers do what they call “lessons learned” reviews – post-mortems of what went well/badly in a project.


We are partnering with a Canadian organization called Engineers Without Borders, they publish on a yearly basis a very inspiring document called Failure Report, a sort of qualitative best failures’ post-mortem of the year. We’re importing their methodology/solutions to EU, if you know any other company publishing something like EWB Failure report in EU don’t hesitate to tell us :slight_smile:

Like it too

It is in Edgeryders’ best interest to support any early adopter of OpenEthnographer. We will help you as best we can if you use the tool for your study on failure (which is super interesting in itself).

I am taking the liberty of making this thread visible also in the OpenEthnographer project.

12 months research

We will start preliminary analysis already in February if everything goes well and happy to test OpenEthnographer.

How’s it coming along?

Hi @ireinga, hope you are well and your project is moving forward.

In case you missed it, I just wanted to point out that Open Ethnographer is now live, and if you want to test it or start using it we are happy to show you around.

Great news!

But unfortunately the grant went to other re-defining public space projects and I’m afraid we won’t be able to test it at a significant scale with this project by now. Really up to test it though! As soon as I find some time I’ll be happy to be guided around :).

Thanks for updating!


Sorry to hear that, I was under the impression yours was already among the winner projects of the competition. Well, if you’ll ever want to apply somewhere else with this project, now you have the up and running software to back up your proposal, as well as our lessons and insights from testing it. Those will be up here sometime end of this month. Keep us posted though…

Welcome, also to codesign the tool

Thanks for the introduction, Irene. As a social innovator myself, I agree that there’s not much chance to learn from failure currently. It’s rather “keep trying until it sticks”. The difficulty is probably: If it’s an innovation, it’s new, and if it’s new how can you know if it works? But most of the mistakes seem to come in during execution / organization building, and for that part a kind of “antipattern language of failure in social innovation” would be a very valuable tool for any social entrepreneur …

And: since you’re one of the early adopters to do online ethnography, please feel invited to try out the Open Ethnographer tool when we get to a first release :slight_smile: It should be agile development with weekly releases, starting around early/mid December. As an ethnographer, welcome to co-design the Open Ethnographer tool itself. (I’m just the software architect / developer, not doing ethnography myself.) Alberto has started the promised mini-survey about “open notebook science” ethnography already, so if you have an opinion on that, you are very welcome to share it.

P.S.: For inserting hyperlinks with custom titles, @danohu already had the solution for you. You can alternatively also select the text, then press Ctrl+L (Linux / Windows) or Cmd+L (OS X).