Project summary: goal, strategy, timeline, team

Project goal

Spot the Future aims to detect citizen-driven social innovation trends in Georgia, Armenia and Egypt by building a meaningful conversation around cutting edge initiatives. We will bring the protagonists in a community of care and support and lend them a global voice, attempting to make a contribution to more grounded development programmes, while giving participants increased credibility and legitimacy in the process.  


In complex societies, change tends to start at the edge. Individuals farther away from the mainstream are less shielded from systemic change (mass unemployment, ecological crises, etc.), and therefore harder pressed to respond and adapt to it; at the same time, they are also less constrained by “business as usual”. In the 21st century, the spread of hacker culture – with its emphasis on DIY, knowledge sharing and technological progress has turned on a spotlight on a small but influential minority of social innovators, activists and technologists that are emerging as a massive, distributed R&D lab for the global society. There is much to be gained from a constructive dialog between the center, where policies are decided upon, and the edge, where people at the forefront of change and adaptation are gathering precious data on what change really looks like from the inside. However, bootstrapping and sustaining such dialog is challenging. Profoundly different world views and experiences separate policy makers and innovators at the edge; a history of mutual mistrust makes each side weary of engaging with the other.

Edgeryders grows out of a joint Council of Europe/European Commission project to bridge this gulf. The approach we advocate – and that we have successfully deployed elsewhere – is based on three main activities:

  • traversing the social graph to reach cutting-edge trends and their protagonists just as they happen. Social innovators, hackers, civic hackers and activists tend to be a global community, connected across the planet by personal ties. We make use of the many edgeryders who are themselves part of it to identify individuals in Armenia, Egypt and Georgia to act as entry points to the networks of innovators in those countries; and of the social Internet to traverse the social graph, using their early involvement to signal to other, less visible innovators what we are doing.
  • peer-to-peer validation through a curated online conversation. Cutting-edge projects and experiences are shared on an online platform optimized for meaningful conversation, with unrestricted (but moderated) comments. This means that the Spot The Future (STF) community functions as its own validation mechanism: anything written by one user can be corroborated or challenged by all other users. This is the same mechanism at work in open source software development, that famously prompted Linus Torvalds to remark that "given enough eyeballs, all errors are shallow". This assures highest quality and timely error- and bias detection.
  • conversation harvesting through online ethnography and network analysis techniques. Qualitative (ethnographic) analysis is deployed on the many voices participating into the online STF conversation, to identify the trends and criticalities that innovators at the edge in Armenia, Egypt and Georgia find most compelling. We supplement this with quantitative indicators: social network indicators (computed on the conversation, not on mainstream social networks) to best assess the influence of individual participants, and content network indicators (such as H-indices) to best assess the depth and the breadth of the peer-to-peer validation processes underpinning each contribution to the conversation.

The social and technical infrastructure 

  • web platform: we’re taking on the fast, cost-effective solution to deploy the project on a dedicated section of the Edgeryders platform – open, already populated and fully customizable; we’ll set up a group and fit it with support for multiple languages and one-click machine-translation;
  • engagement: any distributed foresight effort needs a way to attract and engage many contributors. In the case of STF there is a further complication: the exercise happens across multiple countries and multiple languages. Our way to address this is by working with engagement managers in each country – individuals who are well embedded in the local context and can point us at people doing interesting work.
  • Seeding content: we’ll target key contributors ahead of the project launch and make sure their posts are well articulated and inspiring enough to attract more participation
  • Community management: we employ an experienced community manager to assist new participants in the onboarding process and help them become protagonists of the conversation (guidelines:
  • Narrative weaving: the Big Epic Goal uniting participants in the project will guide engagement efforts and be visible on communications all throughout the project
  • the existing 2,000-strong Edgeryders community are all invited to participate and help accommodate new members. The most interesting thing about the community is its diversity, and is sometimes key for nascent cross border, creative collaboration
  • we deal with multiple languages as follows: key content (basic info, how-tos) will be in Armenian, Arabic, Georgian and English. Procured blog posts will be in the language of the country they refer to and English. Users will be given the choice to write in English or in any other language; one-click automated translation will be made available on the platform. A strong social norm of not looking down on anyone on the basis of spelling or grammar mistakes will be in place.

Research strategy

The final foresight report will be produced by means of an open online ethnography exercise, with some quantitative reinforcements. Ethnographic methods are particularly well-suited to horizon-scanning exercises because they allow researchers to convey the point of view of the group being studied into the research. In the case of STF, this promotes constructive dialog between policy makers and innovators at the edge, as it makes explicit the different world views standing in the way of collaboration. Also, it tends to amplify weak signals by looking at (in this case) social innovation through the eyes of social innovators, taking on board the reasons why their initiators think these practices and experiences are important. For more details about this ask [Alberto].

Final event in Tbilisi, Georgia 

A three day Living on the Edge event (video:, fostering mutual support and horizontal learning that gathers innovators from different parts of the world. The contents of the event will be based on the online conversation and co-designed by the STF community on its platform, by and with attendees. The event will be open for anyone who wishes to participate in it; especially active or inspiring contributors to the STF exercise will be funded to participate.

We aim to build the event around sharing of participants’ experiences as full fledged experts in the social innovation scene, present the preliminary findings based on evidence from the online conversation, and finally, expand on participants knowledge and make it so that they together act as a mutual support network for innovators working outside structured/funded r&d environments.

Timeline (as of 28th February 2014)



WEEK 1                24-28 February

DELIVERABLE 1: Action plan specifying timeline of activities with a very specific set of actions to be taken for each country

WEEK 2               3-7 March

Complete the Spot the Future team with engagement managers, ethnographer and network analyst

Start STF online platform preparation: customizing the web space

WEEK 3               10-14 March

Start work on preliminary foresight report to incorporate post2015 global consultations findings and outline key areas of focus for each country

Contact trailblazers for paid blog posts: reach out to interesting innovators in each country, produce templates and guidelines for submission of texts

WEEK 4             17-21 March

Produce calls for participation in English (writing for engagement)

Translate calls for participation in Georgian, Armenian, Egyptian

Create engagement strategy to mobilize communities of innovators: adapt it to each country specifics (channels, tone, campaigning style)

WEEK 5               24-28 March

Build the data model (define research protocols and tools to use)

Review first batch of submitted paid posts (check that they’re authentic accounts of experiences in innovation)

WEEK 6             31 March-4 April

BIG Platform launch

DELIVERABLE 2: Launch preliminary foresight report online

Deploy social media campaign across countries and the wider Edgeryders network

WEEKS 7-10 (ongoing)

STF continuous engagement campaign, community management and platform maintenance

Weekly blog posts on Spot the Future Armenia, Georgia, Egypt (each to be spread by engagement managers)

7-11 APRIL

SPOT THE FUTURE TOUR: workshops in Georgia, Armenia, Egypt - with UNDP and invited participants; content to be prepared online and each output to feed back onto the online conversation


14-18 April

Start preparations for final event in Tbilisi - open event to engage with project contributors. How many paid spots? Map existing resources and allocate budget accordingly.


21-25 April

Start network analysis and ethnographic analysis: code content and run it through software


28 April- 2 May

Announce FINAL EVENT: open invitation to community members. Best contributions get funded trips.


5-9 May

DELIVERABLE 3: Produce draft reports for each of the 3 countries based on the facilitated discussions on the online platform.

Community validation of preliminary results: the community reacts to findings

Finalize preparations for final event: participants list, logistics, reimbursement procedures, hire media documentation


12-16 May

FINAL EVENT in Tbilisi, 14th-16th of May


19-23 May

DELIVERABLE 4: Complete the final foresight report

Publish final foresight report online and release the data in open format

The complete version of this timeline can be downloaded here.

Core team 

[Alberto]: Project coordination

[Nadia]: Creative direction

[ArthurD]: Administration - financial and legal

[Matthias]: Tech Lead

[Noemi]: Community management

In the course of this project we’ll be looking to offer paid gigs to the Edgeryders community members, ranging from ethnographic research to graphic design to audio and media documentation of the events. Stay tuned for calls!