Communicating impact in innovation ecosystems — A study of communicating impact through the European institute of innovation and technology

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
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Master's Programme in International Design Business Management
Innovation ecosystems are dynamic “coevolving organisational communities” that are generally defined by being “community driven by a lead firm who balances cooperative and competitive processes” (Thomas & Autio, 2020). This co-evolution leads growing innovation ecosystems to adopt a decentralising governance model to provide more autonomy and co-responsibility among their various ecosystem levels. This is the case with the European Institute of Technology and Innovation (EIT, 2021), which has 60 plus innovation hubs and engages with over 2,000 partners. Yet, this rapidly changing environment leaves innovation ecosystems and employees within them, such as EIT, grappling with how to manage capturing and showcasing their true impact. This thesis addresses this through the research of “how to communicate impact in innovation ecosystems?” in collaboration with the EIT Headquarters through a designer’s lens. The thesis explores the existing literature around how to investigate impact communication in innovation ecosystems. This was done by providing a brief context of the field of decentralised innovation ecosystems and on how designers can intervene to aide positive organisational change through methods such as co-design that work by involving a multitude of stakeholders in the design process. It continues by identifying an approach to communicating impact through dissemination and implementation research with a system’s thinking mindset. Lastly, the literature review examines a systematic framework, for evaluating impact in organisations through the IOOI logic chain that stands for the four steps to achieve greater societal impact (input, output, outcome, and impact). Later, the design research is carried out through initiating semi-structured interviews with predominantly EIT HQ professionals. To gather a deeper holistic picture about the challenges and possibilities regarding communicating impact, the primary research concludes with a co-design workshop involving different levels of the EIT ecosystems. All interviews and parts of the workshop are analysed with thematic analysis (Fereday & Muir-Cochrane, 2006). Key findings reveal the importance of facilitating direct communication, strengthening feedback loops, and directing synergies amongst the different actors and levels of innovation ecosystems. The contribution of this thesis proposes how communicating impact can become part of the IOOI chain evaluation process by adding a fifth step. Additionally, it supplies a concept to start implementing this fifth step in the IOOI chain, which consists of a set of guidelines followed with examples for practical usage. These guidelines aim to act as steppingstones for future research on the topic, including the opportunity to include designers further in the process of developing practices for impact communication.
Valtonen, Anna
Thesis advisor
Nicoletti Dziobczenski, Paulo
Roux, Laurent
communicating impact, innovation ecosystems, co-design, IOOI chain, dissemination and implementation, impact evaluation, systems thinking, European institute of innovation and technology
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