Open Social Innovation

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= a new intellectual framework to promote and facilitate sharing of innovative social practices in the spirit of the open source movement.


"Inspired by the four freedoms of free software, Open Social Innovation aims to document social innovation practices as “free/libre recipes” to make these practices visible, usable, copyable, and improvable by anyone." (


Lilian Ricaud:

Documenting knowledge and practices in the form of recipes has been one of the earlier way to transfer transfer them.

A recipe is a set of instructions that describes how to prepare or make something, especially a culinary dish.

Earlier culinary recipes often included little amount of information and served more as a reminder of ingredients and proportions for someone who already knew how to prepare the dish, but modern recipes normally consist of several components that facilitate the transfer of knowledge:

  1. The name (and often the locale or provenance) of the dish
  2. How much time it will take to prepare the dish
  3. The required ingredients along with their quantities or proportions
  4. Necessary equipment and environment needed to prepare the dish
  5. An ordered list of preparation steps and techniques
  6. The number of servings that the recipe will provide (the “yield”)
  7. The texture and flavor
  8. A photograph of the finished dish
  9. A list variations of a traditional dish

Recipes have been successfully used to transmit culinary knowledge very early on and their use has exploded since the invention of the printing press.

Although recipes have been used mainly for culinary purpose, the format can be use to document any kind of social practices.


To facilitate the spreading of the best sustainable practices, the concept of “source code of a project” was proposed as a way to apply the open source model to social innovation.

In computer science, a source code is a collection of written instructions that can be executed by a computer to run a software. By analogy, the source code of a social practice/project is a set of instructions that can be executed by a user in order to implement this practice/project. Typically, this is the principle of a cooking recipes where a set of instructions is given in order to facilitate the replication of a cooked dish. From that initial idea a network of organizations and individuals from France (15) has been working on networking and scaling social innovations using the concept of open source as an intellectual framework.

Although the debate is still going on, recent discussions proposed to change the concept of “source code” of a project into “recette libre” (free/libre recipe) of a project, as a name that can be more explicit and easy to understand outside the open source/free knowledge community.


In the spirit of the free/libre open source software philosophy, four principles for free/libre recipes have been proposed:

  • show/make visible: no fabrication secret, the recipe is made to be read by as many people as possible
  • allow and facilitate reuse: tips and tricks, difficulties are documented to facilitate reuse
  • allow and facilitate copy: the recipe is published under free/libre license (such as CC-BY-SA, public domain or equivalent)
  • improve the recipe: like software anyone can create their own version and adapt/improve the recipe.

The question arise as to how to mutualize all the knowledge from these projects and avoid reinventing the wheel. On the other hand it is important to keep a variety of views as many of these social innovation are very dependent on the social context and therefore there can be no “one true version”.

Therefore one challenge is the one of inter-operability. Can there be a way to facilitate reuse and combination of various recipes ?

The french open social innovation network has started working on a standard way of documenting recipes.

As mentioned before although initially named “project source code” by analogy with software source code, latest discussion tend to favor the name of “recette libres” (free/libre recipes) to describe the documentation of a project/social practice in a standard shareable format.


Although sharing of social practices is already occurring widely online and offline, the concept Open Social Innovation provide a new intellectual framework to promote and facilitate the sharing and improvement of the best sustainable social social practices on a larger scale. There are several challenges ahead, but the success of open source philosophy in software development and more recently in hardware suggest that Open Social Innovation by providing a mean to integrate various social initiatives under a common inter operable language and intent could trigger sharing and improvement of sustainable practices at an unprecedented level." (


Lilian Ricaud:

Bretagne Creative

Bretagne Creative is local territorial network from western france that documents social innovations to make them visible and shareable. Bretagne Creative already mapped 60 social innovations in a open format (how to use Arduino devices to measure humidity in houses, how to create an online local participative magazine, how to promote and build up digital commons …)

See (in french):

Imagination for people

Imagination for people is a platform and a community of imaginative citizens that aims to detect and develop socially innovative projects. Since its launch in 2011 it has mapped and documented over 2000 projects and host several workgroups and communities focused on various topics (animation of cooperative networks, third places, innovation in Africa…)



MoviLab is a network, a participative site and a methodology to scientifically document innovative projects for sustainable living in various domains ( health, culture, education, industry, farming, live together…). MoviLab builds upon a network of open source third space to detect, incubate and deploy the best social innovations.

See (in french):

Outils Réseaux / MousTIC / Archipel

Outils-Reseaux has been a pioneer in sharing free/libre tutorials and teaching materials to set up cooperative tools and implement cooperative practices. As a core organizer of mousTIC, a participative event on open cooperation and social innovation, Outils-Reseaux and its network of partners produced a source-code free/libre recipe of the event to allow others to copy and reproduce it."

More Information


"Inspired by the source code of mousTIC and the potential of events as tool for transformation and culture hacking, Co-creative recipes is free/libre library of co-creative events. The library is part of a larger open research project that aims to map a variety of events formats, tools and ingredients in order to extract underlying design patterns."


One Community

"One Community is open source project blueprinting and free-sharing everything needed to simultaneously address all the challenges currently facing humanity. This includes 7 complete and different sustainable village prototypes, all related living infrastructure, and a Highest Good society model for global transformation."