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Five reasons to join us at Unusual Suspects Seoul

Published Date: 16 October 2018

In the small actions of how you eat or what kind of energy you use or how you study or how you work, there are big ideas implicit in these very small things, and that's what gives them so much meaning and purpose. So social innovation has to maximise meaning.

Charlie Leadbeater

This year we are taking The Unusual Suspects Festival to Seoul City on 1-3 November. We are collaborating with our local partners, C. and Seoul Innovation Park, to curate a festival filled with purposeful conversations that inspire and challenge us. The Seoul festival will buck past trends and become the first international Unusual Suspects event. Here are five reasons why you should join us there.

1) It’s about renewing social innovation

We have been on a long journey together with Seoul City. When Wonsoon Park became the Mayor of Seoul 6 years ago, we curated SIX Summer School with Seoul Metropolitan Government, Seoul Institute and Hope Institute, bringing together 400 people to explore how megacities like Seoul can embrace social innovation. And since then, Seoul City has successfully positioned itself as a social innovation city globally.

After 6 years, although the social innovation scene in Seoul City is lively, there are many pockets of activities that are not connected. The focus has been around outputs of the social innovation activities rather than about the way people work together and achieve impact. Our partners in Seoul felt strongly that now is the time to discuss, reflect and renew the social innovation field in Korea.

2) It’s about going back to the basics

On our last visit to Seoul City this summer, we met with Mayor Park at his temporary residence in Samyangdong . After the local elections this year, Mayor Park moved his residence to Northern fringes of Seoul in order to experience and understand the lives of citizens firsthand.

As part of a social innovation week in Seoul, the Festival will aim to similarly close the gap between policy makers and citizens, develop a willingness to understand challenges, as well as empathise bottom up practices and action. The Future Innovation Forum, taking place in the same week as the festival, will represent the other side of the coin, offering different perspectives, solutions and practices, but from a top-down policy making level. Both events are open and free to attend.

3) It’s about looking forward

As South Korean society looks toward possible unification, the festival programme reflects a desire to think differently and actively about the future. Session highlights include exploring the changing role of women in the workplace, as well as how the workforce will be affected by automation. SIX will host a discussion on how to co-create cities with cross-sector, multi-stakeholder participation, bringing in experience and expertise from Hong Kong, Canada, South Korea and the UK. Megumi Koyama, SIX’s Service Designer, together with Yonsei DESIS Lab will explore the negative depictions and potential positive consequences of AI in ‘How can artificial intelligence strengthen human relationships?’.

4) An opportunity to get to know social innovation in South Korea

Following our initial visit to Seoul in August, we were astonished by the breadth and variety of social innovation work that was being undertaken across sectors in South Korea. The Festival, therefore, offers an opportunity for participants to learn and connect with a number of South Korean innovators, working in a number of sectors. The Festival is a chance to unearth narratives of action and social innovation and to connect them into a wider discourse. The blend of local and global expertise is essential to the festival model, and will provide a richness to the discussions and events.

5) The rich tapestry of Korean culture and society

If none of the above appeals then consider coming to immerse yourself in Korean culture, be it by listening to US chart toppers BTS, or by enjoying some kimchi jjigae.