What are CAPS?

The acronym CAPS stands for Collective Awareness Platforms for Sustainability and Social Innovation. The European Commission (EC) first used this label in 2012, in the context of the Seventh Framework Programme of research in order to identify a new group of research projects and, in some sense, a new area of research.

Collective Awareness Platforms for Sustainability and Social Innovation (CAPS) are ICT systems leveraging the emerging « network effect » by combining open online social media, distributed knowledge creation and data from real environments (« Internet of Things ») in order to create awareness of problems and possible solutions requesting collective efforts, enabling new forms of social innovation.

Collective Awareness Platforms are expected to support environmentally aware, grassroots processes and practices to share knowledge, to achieve changes in lifestyle, production and consumption patterns, and to set up more participatory democratic processes. Although there is consensus about the global span of the sustainability problems that are affecting our current society, including the economic models and the environment, there is little awareness of the role that each and every one of us can play to ease such problems, in a grassroots manner.

CAPS initiatives are not oriented exclusively towards technology or focused solely on building online communities; they address instead everyday life situations of the groups of people the initiatives target as their user base. As a consequence, people should participate in CAPS initiatives and platforms for two reasons:

  1. CAPS initiatives are tackling societal challenges, therefore people more affected and involved with such challenges could benefit from participation;
  2. as CAPS are oriented towards facing societal challenges, people can have a direct benefit in their lives independently from their own political agenda (and in the absence of it).

CAPS European projects

The initiative of the European CommissionCollective Awareness Platforms for Sustainability and Social Innovation” (CAPS) aims at designing and piloting online platforms creating awareness of sustainability problems and offering collaborative solutions based on networks (of people, of ideas, of sensors), enabling new forms of social innovation. Concrete examples of emerging areas include:

  • Open Democracy: enabling citizens’ participation in democratic processes by developing and applying new tools (e.g. voting, online consultation)
  • Open Policy Making: better decision making based on open data
  • Collaborative Economy: lending, exchange, swapping made to operate at scale
  • Collaborative Making: developing new ways of manufacturing
  • Collaborative Consumption: rethinking consumerism
  • New Collaborative approaches to inclusion, agriculture, health, disaster management

The last call for proposals for CAPS was launched in 2014 for the Horizon 2020 programme with a total budget of 43 million euro. Nearly 200 proposals were submitted, of which 24 have been selected for funding, including MAKE-IT. The new CAPS projects have started in January 2016.

External resources

Several resources regarding CAPS are available online, from an existing library with presentations, brochures, articles, conferences reports and press releases, to a new library under construction on the new CAPSSI portal. Perhaps one of the best starting point is the CAPS Handbook:

Note The MAKE-IT project started in January 2016 and is currently active; this website will be improved in the following months, please register to our newsletter in order to learn when new content or features will be available online.