Danielle Gluns
Research for social innovation
10 September 2017 - Impact Hub

Research for social innovation

  • Digital Nomad

    ‘Soon you will have a German friend with whom you can speak your language’. This is what Simone told me when he was very happy for Danielle’s return. The only other thing I knew about her was that she made an incredibly good Thai Curry that had left the recipe on HUB’s fridge. I was curious to meet you. During a conversation, I got to know why he returned to the Impact Hub Syracuse for the third time.

    How did Danielle get here?

    It all started with a call for proposals from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program. One of my tasks as a researcher at the University of Münster in Germany was to write the proposal based on the professor’s contribution. His idea was to combine the results of previous research projects with new organizations, to build a network of institutions in different countries of the world. An ambitious and tiring plan (more than once I wished I could abandon the idea). But now I’m happy, because without this project I would never have arrived here!

    Tell me about your project!  

    The objective of the project – http://www.uni-muenster.de/IfPol/FAB-MOVE/ – is to allow the exchange between research institutes and professionals working on the theme of social enterprises. Including Impact Hub in Syracuse as a partner in this network allows us to get insights into the field of social enterprises in Sicily. The exchange consists of spending one to twelve months at one of the selected organizations to the staff of another organization (such as my university). My decision to come to Syracuse was based on several considerations: we needed further information on the structures and activities of social enterprises in Southern Italy and on supporting Impact Hub activities. Plus I was expecting some warmth and sunshine, good food and wonderful scenery.

    Were you surprised when you first came here? 

    From day one, Syracuse (especially Ortigia) enchanted me and I immediately felt at home. Everyone I met at the Hub welcomed me warmly and openly, as if I were already among friends. There is always a place to sit and work, at lunch you can cook and eat together in the large kitchen, and if you have a problem there will always be someone to help you. I usually prefer spaces where I can work alone and not be disturbed. But during my stay here, I experienced that the collaboration has a very special dynamic that has greatly improved my work efficiency, making me finish my reports in record time. This concerns both the moments when you are sitting around the big table and everyone writes on their laptops, and the moments when people meet and talk. There are always a certain number of people from various professional and / or national contexts and each of them contributes to bringing about surprising synergies revealing new points of view and ways of dealing with problems. I have also participated in some of the other Hub activities and this has allowed me to meet successful social entrepreneurs and discuss microfinance for Muslim migrants or refugee reception facilities and processes in Sicily. I took part in a session of the project “Bassi Communicanti” in Ragusa, where young entrepreneurs receive advice on how to turn their ideas into real social enterprises. All this gave me a level of knowledge of social enterprises (in particular in southern Italy) that no scientific study could ever give me.

    Tell me about your experiences here.

    There is more than a work experience in Sicily. Speaking of Sicily, you must also talk about food. I’ve always been passionate about cooking and I love trying local cuisines, but I don’t think I’ve ever tasted such tasty and perfectly balanced dishes as here. They combine various flavors (such as bittersweet) and show influences from the various cultures that have colonized the island over the centuries. Hiking and cycling are the perfect way to eliminate all the calories of food and also allow you to admire the beautiful nature of the island: from the hills, to the volcano, to the sea. Also, there are so many World Heritage cities that it’s really hard to choose which one to visit first. But the most important aspect of Sicily is its people. They are the largest resource on the island and its added value. Meetings with other Hubbers and their larger networks, as well as daily meetings in bars and markets have captured me in a way I never thought possible. Since my first stay was too short to spend enough time with everyone, I came back again this year and I’m already planning my next return. The Syracuse Hub is like a second home, where I am welcomed as if I had only been away for a day, where there is always a desk waiting for me, and where I look forward to the answer to the question “what do we do for lunch?” “. When we are together at the table, chatting about social enterprises, research, politics or personal life, I know I am back again. And I also know that it will be difficult when the day of departure comes. There is only one remedy against the fear of separation: plan your next stay at the Syracuse Impact Hub!

    Interview by
    Sarah Steiner