Taking a value-based approach to technological transformation

Innovation series #Tech4Society kicked off with a debate on value creation

How can new technologies work best for society? In partnership with a diverse consortium of partners from academia, civil society, the public and private sector, Das Progressive Zentrum launched the innovation series #Tech4Society. The kick-off event shed new light on value creation and technological change in modern economies. Continuing the series in 2020 with a series of workshops we will dive deep into developing concepts for economic, societal and individual progress through new tech.

New technologies must be at the service of people promoting economic progress, social cohesion and individual well-being. On November 21, the kick-off conference “Tomorrow’s value creation” took place at the SKPlab, Berlin. The launch marked the premise of #Tech4Society as taking a value-based approach to shaping technological change in modern economies looking at the potential of social innovation for economy and society. At the core of the debate was the questions of how policymakers can ensure to keep the economy competitive and innovative whilst mitigating social and ecological risks and economic inequalities and the climate crisis? 

This question and many more were discussed by Geoff Mulgan, Chief Executive Officer, Nesta // Patrizia Nanz, Scientific Director, IASS Potsdam // Julia Kloiber, Partner, Ashoka & Managing Director, Superrr Lab // Stefan Profit, Deputy Director-General in the Economic Policy Department, Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Juha Leppänen, Chief Executive, Demos Helsinki. The discussion was chaired by Daniela Blaschke, Policy Fellow, Das Progressive Zentrum.

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Media coverage

Geoff Mulgan’s op-ed „Tech for Progress“ at Der Tagesspiegel (DE)

The keynote speech by Geoff Mulgan focused on three main aspects regarding the changing value-creation in the digital age.

New economic and business models

In the near future, we will witness the development of entirely new patterns of value due to emerging economic and business models, which are increasingly driven by data and networks. The shift in the nature of value creation involves a shift to more creative jobs with a greater demand for cognitive skills such as complex problem solving, originality, the fluidity of ideas, and active learning.

New governance

There is a need for new governance and new policy strategies in response to the changing parameters of the modern economy during the fourth industrial revolution. Tomorrow’s regulators and institutions must facilitate the benefits of AI and others while ensuring that democratic values and liberal norms are promoted and protected.

New ways of thinking: leveraging different perspectives 

Geoff further introduced the concept of collective intelligence and how it can generate public benefit with regards to transformation processes in the labour market and decarbonisation. According to him, the key is to mobilise and apply collective intelligence to these problems to turn them into common goods.

In response to Geoff’s contribution, Patrizia Nanz discussed the question of how democratic values can shape the digital transformation. Her conclusion seems bold and simple at the same time: The state should systematically embody a public debate on technological change by a) involving citizens in the decision-making process through e.g. citizen convention or by b) promoting a new form of incremental collective learning through small scale innovation and transformation on the regional level. Therefore, it is inevitable to rethink the government’s structures and cultures.

Main takeaways

In the panel discussion that followed, one central challenge for technological change was examined: the fact that states’ governance is designed for stability rather than transformative processes. It is hence necessary to rethink and redefine the role of the state and the democratic system in general, in order to equip it for the challenges entailed by technological transformation.

Several possibilities on how to make instrumental use of digital tools and methods so as to prevent further social polarisation and division were discussed. Stefan Profit, Deputy Director-General in the Economic Policy Department, Federal Ministry for Economic Affair, provided insights into his/the ministry’s Regulatory Sandboxes Strategy to facilitate the transfer of technology and innovation. This approach is designed for testing regulation which enables digital innovations in real life. It simultaneously establishes legal certainty and a suitable legal framework, without however sacrificing useful and necessary standards.

The experts went on to identify various issues that point to the importance of ensuring that society can act upon and bring about technological change. These include, among others: 

Democratic co-innovation

The great societal challenges of our time require a co-innovation between the economic and political sectors as well as the civil society. In order to provide digital solutions and infrastructure to tackle these problems, it is essential to think and bring top-down and bottom-up together.  

Inclusive narrative and debate

How can new technologies foster social cohesion? To embody a holistic and substantial solution, innovation processes must include a more diverse set of stakeholders. The path towards a value-based digital transformation must address problems like social inequality and spark a wider public debate. States must aim for a more diverse and inclusive discussion about our digital future and ensure a constant deliberation on the collective intelligence in our society.  

New global digital governance 

For technological change to make a positive contribution to society, it is crucial to enhance international digital policy approaches. The creation of an international narrative of cooperation on how to deploy the potential of new technologies also plays an important role. Crucial to this narrative is the empowerment of shared commons of digital infrastructure regarding cybersecurity, Big Data and AI. 


The innovation series #Tech4Society is dedicated to value-based technological change with the goal of social and ecological progress at its core. In close cooperation with and support by an informed set of partners from academia, the public and private sector, and civil society, the aim is to map out a way whereby new technologies address the central challenges of our era, including the climate crisis, social inequalities and increasing political polarisation in our democracies. 

Which new technologies are needed for societal progress? 

At the centre of the #Tech4Society deliberation is the fundamental question of which new technologies are needed for societal progress by taking into account the intersection of the economy, society, and the individual. 

Economy How can new technologies contribute to a social and ecological responsible economic model?

Individual How can new technologies help secure individual and societal welfare?

Society How can new technologies foster social cohesion?

The #Tech4Society consortium

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