Snjallræði: Startup Social

The objective of Snjallræði: Startup Social is to provide individuals, NGOs and companies with a platform to develop their ideas and find ways to make them sustainable. The ideas must have a clear and positive social impact and support one or more of the UN Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs. We are open to all ideas in all stages, from fresh thoughts to developed projects and businesses.

  • 8 exceptional ideas in social innovation and entrepreneurship
  • 8 weeks in Spring semester 2021
  • Office space in Gróska
  • Assistance in idea development and implementation
  • Training from Icelandic and foreign experts in social innovation and entrepreneurship
  • Network of mentors who will share their experience and provide support to individual teams

Experts from MIT designX

Startup Social uses an integrative systems-approach to seed long-term, structural transformation of political, economic, ecological and social systems. We invite innovators, institutional partners, and interested stakeholders to join us in defining a grounded approach to innovation – one that fosters ideas that advance equitable and regenerative world(s) in Iceland, and beyond.

In order to do that we have lined up with experts from MIT designX in Boston who will work closely with the University of Iceland, Reykjavík University, the University of the Arts, Icelandic Startups and Höfði Reykjavík Peace centre in creating an ambitious social innovation programme, bringing innovators and institutional partners on a design journey. These modules will structure the five core weeks of the program:

  1. Exploration
    Focus on stakeholder mapping and context research.
  2. Orientation
    Introspection, team building, and aligning visions
  3. Ideation and
    Design and prototyping in collaboration with stakeholders and partners.
  4. Experimentation
    Testing and evaluation in collaboration with stakeholders and partners.
  5. Integration
    Building accountability and formally launching with a long-term financial model.

The Startup Social team is guided by the following workshop principles:

These principles guide a unique approach to social innovation.

  • Place Design with material, community, and institutional conditions of a place.
  • Process Use exploratory design to find non-obvious solutions to a problem.
  • People Engage with stakeholders and collaborate to create value with dignity.
  • Protocols Deeply integrate with—and transform—regulation, policy, bureaucracy.


Kate Mytty is a researcher, urban planner and artist focused on strategies for equitable cities. She focuses on strategies for alternative economies, how identity shapes access, and opportunities for social cohesion. She is a Visiting Lecturer at the MIT Center for Real Estate; co-founder of MIT Create an action-based lab for social equity, and Community Transformation Lead at Build Up. She also teaches at MIT D-Lab.


Matthew Claudel is a designer, researcher and writer focused on the opportunities and challenges of civic innovation. Matthew has been published widely in the fields of architecture, scientometrics, technology, and art, and co-authored two books: Open Source Architecture and The City of Tomorrow. He co-founded designX, a new initiative in the MIT School of Architecture + Planning that accelerates student ventures in design-innovation for the built environment.

Would you like to work on your idea?

Applications for Startup Social will open in August 2019 and the application form will be made available here.

Your project idea will be evaluated based on three key criteria:

  • Innovation: Your innovation can be a product, a process, a technology, a market-based solution, or a service that is either entirely new, is being used in a novel and beneficial way, or is some new combination of existing ideas.. Innovation creates value and new opportunities for the community and offers benefits that are an improvement on previous efforts. Tell us what other solutions have been tried and how your project differs from these.

  • Impact: Impact can be defined in several ways, either by how deeply a small group of people may be affected or how many people across a broad spectrum could benefit from your project. We are interested in projects that address an underserved need—working on an issue or with a social group that has not received sufficient attention, support, or resources, for example. This could mean working on a project that is very specific, such as providing access to clean water in one specific geographic area or community, or it could mean something more broadly systemic, such as developing affordable means for evaluating environmental impact for small businesses. Finally, we are interested in ideas that find ways to generate mutual impact across different systems or sectors, such as education and healthcare, through linking the needs of one with the assets of another.

  • Feasibility: We want to see that your work can result in a tangible benefit for a particular group or community. To demonstrate the feasibility of your project, you should describe the status of your project, note whom you will or would like to be working with to implement the project, and show that you have the right combination of skills among your team to make the project possible.



Landsvirkjun has established an ambitious strategy on corporate social responsibility which states that it is the company’s role to create value, to respect and protect natural resources and the environment and to share its expertise in order to effectively contribute to society. Landsvirkjun has signed the UN Global Compact on social responsibility and is committed to implementing the ten principles outlined by the UN in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption.

Click here for further information on Landsvirkjun and its strategy on corporate social responsibility.


Deloitte is committed to making an impact that matters in society. Addressing complex societal challenges requires collaboration and no sector can do it alone. Deloitte Global and its member firms work closely with Social Progress Imperative, a non-profit organization committed to changing the way we measure what matters most to global and local communities around the world.

Click here for further information on Deloitte and its great contribution to social progress.


Össur’s mission is to improve people’s mobility. This is the Company’s most important contribution to building a better society. Össur’s products have helped numerous people live a life without limitations. Through its line of innovative products, Össur helps people make sure their opportunities aren’t diminished due to injury or disability. Össur aspires to contribute to a better society and to minimize its impact on the environment.

Click here for further information on Össur's contributions to society.

What is social innovation?

Innovation can be defined in may different ways. Some say it has to be disruptive or a breakthrough while others see smaller changes as innovative, as long as they create value.

We like to define innovation as something fresh, whether new, original or improved, and something that creates value (source). In its essence, social innovation can thus be described as something fresh that brings value primarily for society instead of single individuals or organisations.

Here are a few more definitions of social innovation:

  • Social innovation is the application of innovation and design thinking methodology to address community and social problems. Social innovation is grounded in a commitment to sustainable, just, and democratic systems that benefit marginalized groups and society (source).

  • Social innovation is the process of developing and deploying effective solutions to challenging and often systemic social and environmental issues in support of social progress (source).

  • Social innovation means developing new ideas, services and models to better address social issues. It invites input from public and private actors, including civil society, to improve social services (source).

Are you thirsty for more? Check this out and here is even a whole report on the issue!