Questions and Answers / Table of content
Why the Symcubator ?
We believe that we can and therefore must contribute to make the world progress towards a better global society, by the means of SymVentures involving Innovation, Collaboration, Education and Solidarity (ICES). We believe that the ideas and the energy needed to launch symVentures will very often come from intrinsically motivated individuals, who need to be empowered and encouraged to step beyond the limits of their job description and organisational role. And we believe that the SymCubator can help these symVentures by providing them the means through its platform, member community and partner network.
The SymCubator is a virtual “place” for intrinsically motivated participants to meet and exchange with others in view of incubating symVentures, across different organisations and / or different units within larger organisations. By symVenturing through the SymCubator people with ideas and energy gain additional degrees of freedom to innovate and collaborate with others outside of the organisations which employ them, whilst keeping the link and the potential of working with their employer when the symVenture matures.
WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF « SYM » – « CUBATOR » ?
SymCubator is the contraction of “Sym” and “Incubator”. The “Sym“-prefix comes from the Greek “together”; “incubation” is understood broadly as the process to help an idea to become reality. We focus on incubating ideas for symVentures, i.e. undertakings involving innovation, collaboration, education and / or solidarity, i.e., to become reality.
What is meant by “Good Global Society” ?
Which society do we want to advance through the Symcubator ?
Regardless of what society we happen to belong to, we are members of the Global Society. All SymCubator founding members are citizens of the world, some of the European Union; some of them have multiple nationalities. We are all citizens of the village or city where we live; we are at home in one or many languages, cultures, or spiritual traditions. We have multiple identities and multiple roots, personal and emotional bonds, commitments, cultural affinities, value systems etc. We consider Society to be both a collaboration and competition of individuals and groups whose ambition it is to preserve through solidarity the dignity of all. This global society has developed in amazing ways over the past centuries, bringing well-being to many world citizens.
But many others are left aside, and are other on “wrong side” of globalisation. We believe that we can do something about it and hence must do so. We believe that a sustainable, yet equitable society is possible and should be, if not achieved, at least be sought after actively. And we think that unconditional dignity of all human beings (and the rights and obligations resulting from it) and universal solidarity across borders and generations are values that we could share in such a society.
What is meant by “unconditional dignity” and “universal solidarity” ?
“Unconditional Dignity” represents the right of everybody, independently of his origins, age, sex, social condition or history, to the material and social means needed to exist in our Society. This encompasses the fundamental rights but goes further, as it is also necessary for example to be able to use public transport, to communicate, to learn during your entire life and to be “connected” to culture.
“Universal Solidarity” represents a solidarity, which is jointly constructed beyond generations and borders: we are all – collectively and individually – heirs of past generations and responsible of future generations, we are all interdependent beyond borders – of communities, of nations and of continents – and must hence act for the dignity “others”. This responsibility / duty, and the means to assume it, are an integral part of our dignity.
These two values are interdependent and in permanent tension. The resolution of this tension is a fundamental problem of any Society. In our “modern” societies new approaches to connect the two are badly needed; this will be we hope addressed by certain symVentures.
What do we understand by Innovation, Collaboration,
Education and Solidarity ?
Innovation: Action of developing new ideas, understandings, concepts, tools, products, services to address a challenge / solve a problem / open new perspectives, and then ensuring that they can be taken up by those, who can benefit from them. Once sufficiently “mature”, Innovation leads to new Education, which is essential to its uptake. Innovation very often requires Collaboration and sometimes Cooperation, especially to solve complex problems
Collaboration: Action of individuals working together towards a common set of objectives. Collaboration requires Education, which is essential to share a common referential. It presupposes Solidarity, as collaboration requires trust in others that they will reciprocate and respect the interests and dignity of fellow collaborators. Collaboration may require Innovation, but not necessarily
Education: Action of developing competence by acquiring knowledge and skills; often implies collaboration between teachers and students. Education is an end to itself, but also an enabler of Collaboration (creating a common referential), innovation (creating the starting base, from which Innovation can take place) and Solidarity (enabling people to develop their own dignity and to contribute to other people’s dignity).
Solidarity: Action of contributing (directly or indirectly) to the dignity of others. Can take a wide variety of forms and take place both within and outside of the market economy. An end to itself, giving sense to our existence. Also, the precondition for Collaboration, Education and Innovation to take place. Often requires Collaboration both with those who benefit from solidarity, but also with others to join forces. Education is a particularly powerful form of solidarity. Often also comes with Innovation to change mindsets and open new avenues to implement Solidarity.
Why are intrinsically motivated individuals so important ?
What are their limits ?
Ideas grow first of all in the brains of individuals. Often new ideas have a difficult time to materialise because in organisations, which employ these people. Most undertakings dealing with innovation, communication, education and solidarity, often before anything else, require the collaboration of willing – intrinsically motivated – and creative individuals in small groups, whose members trust each other to come, brainstorm and try to develop a joint undertaking. Their individual capabilities, combined with the intelligence of the group, make innovation, collaboration, education and / or solidarity happen.
But to make an impactful difference, in the complex world, in which we live in interdependence of others, these initiatives also need to be taken up by organisations and institutions that at some stage transform these ventures into undertakings owned and carried out by partner organisations, with dedicated resources, mobilising larger groups of people, taking decisions, making agreements and sticking to them.
Is the SymCubator yet another start-up incubator ?
No, we do not aim at providing physical facilities, funding and / or advice for high-tech start-ups. If we incubate a start-up we would partner ourselves with venture capitalists and a start-up incubator. If we want to raise funding, we partner with venture capitalists or crowd funding platforms.
Our focus is to help great ideas – to make global society progress through ICES – to take shape and to exist. Many will want to spin off and live their own life at some stage. But until then we give them a (immaterial) place to be, partners to provide support and a legal entity to start going without the hassle of creating one.
What makes symVentures special undertakings ?
A symVenture is first of all an idea for an undertaking which can contribute to a better global society. Any domain – “soft” and “hard” sciences, technologies, arts, culture, media… – will do. Any scale – from local to global – will do. Any form – think-tank, non-profit undertaking, start-up, informal working group… – will do.
A symVenture is however much more than an idea; it is also a strong desire to see it become reality and an explicitly stated intention to make it happen, and therefore a commitment to transform that intention into action.
This implies that each symVenture has at least one leader (or more), who will be responsible for driving the symVenture incubation process and represent it towards the SymCubator and other third parties. Other members can act as contributors – they make a commitment to contribute significantly to the symVenture – or as supporters who just will follow the symVenture and provide help as they want and can.
What does the SymCubator do for symVentures ?
The SymCubator is a virtual “place” for intrinsically motivated participants to meet and exchange with others in view of incubating symVentures outside of organisations, across different organisations and / or different units within larger organisations.
The SymCubator offers additional degrees of freedom to people with ideas and energy to innovate and collaborate with others outside of the organisations which employ them, whilst keeping the link and the potential of working with their employer when the symVenture matures.
The members of the SymCubator thus form a community of people sharing the fundamental values and beliefs laid out in the SymCubator Charter, thus providing the potential of a network of contacts to help or even co-incubate a symVenture.
At the same time the SymCubator will progressively build a network of partner organisations to support the incubation of symVentures.
How to incubate public-public collaboration to cope with societal challenges ?
We believe that the challenges of the global society increasingly require the incubation of symVentures bringing together public authorities from different countries and combining innovation, education and solidarity from different countries.
Often in such undertakings a “natural coordinator” is missing, supporting the public partners between themselves and also managing the interaction with technological and scientific partners. The SymCubator will provide this important “missing link” and support the incubation and operation of such multinational public symVentures with impartiality and effectiveness.
Another frequent obstacle is the difficulty in public organisations to timely mobilise resources for incubating and executing a collaborative innovation undertaking, e.g. when it comes to share the work and costs of proposal development, recruit experts or setting up joint collaboration platform. The SymCubator can also provide the possibility to flexibly and timely recruit and organise the services from partners.
Is there not an ethical risk with owning a stake in for-profit symVentures?
This is a frequently asked question, which we have asked ourselves. The SymCubator does not consider itself an anti-system undertaking – we think that the best set-up of a symVenture will depend on its purpose; sometimes a for-profit venture may be the best way to optimise impact, sometimes not.
For instance, symVentures dealing with software for civitech or collective intelligence applications are typically something which the SymCubator expects to see (we have in our portfolio). To optimise the impact, the tools must be massively and virally taken up. This may require very significant private capitals and the symVenture will typically benefit from being a venture funded software start-up. Also, if this venture is successful, even a modest stake might significantly increase the resources of the SymCubator to support other ventures. As long as such a for-profit symVenture stays focused on its mission, which as such is clearly in the scope of the SymCubator, it can remain in the SymCubator “galaxy”. But the founders of the software venture can decide to leave SymCubator. Also, strategic choices of such a venture company can turn out to create ethical conflicts, which the SymCubator’s Executive Board considers unacceptable. In such a case, the SymCubator would simply divest its stake in SymPlace as quickly as reasonably possible.
Other symVentures, such as the SymCubator itself, will (a priori) require little or no capital to get started and will gain in trustworthiness as a neutral and independent player by operating as a non-for-profit organisation.
How is the SymCubator organised ?
The SymCubator is nonprofit organisation composed of a network of national associations directed by an umbrella association: the SymCubator International Association. As such the SymCubator can recruit, invest and receive revenues / funding in various countries, respecting local labour laws and being able to partner with public authorities. The first association, SymCubator France, has been founded in June 2017.
At the same time, it acts as one single community, is governed by one main executive board and everyone work together sharing the same online platform, in short acting as one organisation!
This “networked unity” or “integrated network” approach allows the SymCubator to be local and global at the same time. The approach will be opportunistic: only in those countries where a local base is needed, a national non-profit association will be created. The SymCubator Charter will however be the same for all, one elected SymCubator Executive Board will govern the strategic choices, decide on the symVentures to hosted in the SymCubator and which partners and sponsors to work with.
The SymCubator will operate with minimal permanent resources and structures. This will in particular require that the SymCubator operates with a network of third party organisations providing resources on an as needed basis. At the same time the SymCubator is building a network of partner organisations to support the incubation of symVentures, providing different services and form of support to symVentures, but also to incubate symVentures, which may originate within these organisations but require additional degrees of freedom and a degree of open collaboration, open innovation and open education, which would be much more difficult to enable within these organisations. The idea is a bit similar to the 20% policy of Google, but with the key differences that it takes place in a protected independent structure and with the possibility to partner with anybody else.
Symcubator practicalities for Intrinsically Motivated Individuals
Joining the SymCubator as a member and donate
By joining the SymCubator as a member you become part of a community of people who believe that humanity can and should progress towards a good global society. You are intrinsically motivated by the desire to launch a symVenture or to contribute to one. The members of the SymCubator form a community of people sharing the fundamental values and beliefs laid out in the SymCubator Charter, thus providing the potential of a network of contacts to support symVentures and possibly co-incubate with the founders.
Practically you adhere to the SymCubator Charter, pay a small symbolic membership fee. And by doing so you make a symbolic contribution to the operation and will have access to the SymCubator’s supporting services. You can also choose do donate a more substantial amount to the SymCubator or one of its symVentures and help it to making a difference.
Joining and launching symVentures
The first step before launching or joining a symVenture is to become a member of the SymCubator.
Joining a symVenture. By becoming a member of the SymCubator you can see and know more about the symVentures, which have chosen to go public. Some will be open to all SymCubator members and you will be able to join without further discussions. Other will be private and you will simply contact the leaders of the symVenture and discuss your involvement. And sometimes, you will get invited by the leader of a symVenture before knowing about the SymCubator … in which case you will have to join the SymCubator community before joining the symVenture. Long story short, the symVenture teams will control how new members join or not.
Launching a symVenture. The first step for launching a symVenture is to propose it to the SymCubator. You will start by filling a form describing your idea / concept for the symVenture. This will then be screened by the SymCubator team, which may ask for additional information. The finalised form will then be the basis for a decision by the Executive Board of the SymCubator. If you disagree with the decision you can appeal. Please be reminded that symVenture imperatively requires a lead, who is fully committed to take it through. A symVenture without a lead, will be suspended (until a new lead appears) or be discontinued from the SymCubator. Also the SymCubator Charter clearly specifies that the initiators and participants in a symVenture are fee from conflicts of interest.
SymCubator practicalities for Partnering Organisations
How can Organisations partner with the SymCubator ?
Partnerships between the SymCubator and other organisations – profit or non-profit – can be mutually beneficial for many reasons.
Many symVentures, when they reach a certain stage of maturity, will need to partner with existing organisations to progress. Some examples: A start-up symVenture may need venture funding or the support of an incubator. A symVenture incubating a sustainable practitioner innovation network may want to cooperate in European Union funded research and innovation programmes. A social innovation symVenture may want to set up a partnership with local and national authorities, social and economic stakeholders. A cultural or humanitarian symVenture may need to raise funding on a crowd funding platform. The SymCubator is building a network of partnerships to provide the services needed by its symVentures. To do so, it will also leverage the networks of its members.
Also, organisations may want to unleash their potential for innovation, collaboration, education and solidarity and empower their most creative, entrepreneurial and motivated employees. The SymCubator not only offers a protected space for employees of organisations to incubate their symVentures, but also support them thanks to its network of partners and sponsors. Thus new ventures can reach the sufficient level of maturity to be either taken up by the originating organisations or be spun off. A sponsor can donate funds and benefit from visibility and privileged rights to the results of a symVenture or to shares, if the symVenture is a start-up company. Some examples: A large organisation can cooperate with the SymCubator to stimulate in-house innovation and work, leveraging its own innovation potential and allowing the SymCubator to scale up. A consortium of public authorities could ask the SymCubator to act in a European Union research programme as a neutral secretariat under their governance to facilitate the decision making to collectively cope with societal challenges. Another consortium could ask the SymCubator to act as think-tank to bring together people from different perspectives. A network of researchers could use the SymCubator as a legal entity to support a virtual centre of excellence in their domain. A commercial management service provider could provide advantages at favourable conditions to symVentures. The SymCubator will custom-design partnerships to enable such possibilities. The simplest – tacit – agreement can be to authorise employees to become SymCubator members and to participate in some role – leader, contributor or supporter – in the incubation of a symVenture.
The SymCubator, to develop will need (modest) logistical and financial support. Sponsorships and free services –e.g. logistics, advice, usage of IT or office infrastructure… – at advantageous conditions are typically going to be put to maximum benefit. A special form of sponsorship will be to detach volunteering employees to work on a part-time basis for the SymCubator or one of its symVentures.
Wherever possible, the SymCubator will privilege multidimensional relations, combining several of these aspects, and favour the sustainable long term over the short term. In particular, custom-designed partnerships and sponsorships will often be associated.
How will IPR issues be handled ?
IPR (Intellectual Property Right) issues can be a problem for launching symVentures as well as exploiting their results. Therefore, it is important that people who participate in a symVenture (and hence the SymCubator) clearly establish that they do not have conflicts of interest with their employers (or clients in the case of freelancers) and agree on the IPR issues between themselves upfront.
The SymCubator will provide guidance to its symVentures on these matters. Of special importance for commercially oriented symVentures (for-profit or not) will be the right to transfer the IPR, obtained from participating in collaborative research and innovation projects, to third party organisations represented by the SymCubator (especially start-ups incubated in the SymCubator before being spun off and public authorities “represented” by the SymCubator in a collaborative innovation project…). When the IPR will have been obtained by the SymCubator through its participation as a partner in collaborative research and innovation projects, the rules of must be settled from the outset. In what regards the European research programme Horizon 2020, clause §30 of the Model Grant Agreement as well as the clauses related to IPR transfer of the DESCA model for consortium agreements, provide here a good basis.