This lesson is about “diffusion theories”, theories that try to explain, make sense of what happens when an innovation is introduced in society. You may wonder “why this topic?” The answer is that, in my opinion, when you write a project proposal what you have in mind or what you should have in mind is to have an impact on society, on the world around us. And being fully aware of it is really important. The diffusion of an innovation can be seen as the introduction of a new species in an ecosystem, let’s say a small pond like this. Ok. So this is the pond and in the pond we have some weed, like this, some small fish, here they are. The fish eat the weeds – at least, I think I have to say, I am not a biologist so don’t take my word on that. There is also a toad here – a nice, smiling toad. And as you may know toads eat dragonflies. So we have the dragonflies but we put them quite far, to save them, at least for a while. Then… what else do we have? We have a big sunfish, like that. The sunfish is, you know, a nice guy; sometimes he eats one of the small fish but not often. And, eventually, we have two more characters in our lake: two large-mouth basses. They are the real bosses of the pond. Here they are. Two friends, like that. Let’s complete the eco-system like this and basically this is it. And then one day, a new comer arrives. Let's imagine that a piranha, a fish not particularly famous for being “nice”, gets into our pond. And what happens? Quite likely the small fish are gone, maybe not all of them but, most of them are gone. The sunfish, ok, is a little bit big but quite likely he will move to a corner of the pond and will try not be much around when the piranha is around as well. The largemouth basses will probably try to get into a nice relationship with the piranha. The toad is not going to be affected particularly but as you can see in any case the pond, the eco-system, is going to change dramatically. Or instead let’s imagine that the new fish is a nice fish, a very nice and kind fish. The new fish will arrive and say: “ok no worries guys I’m going to find my place in the pond.” Maybe here she’s going to eat the small fish, the small fish are in a terrible position in any case – but just, like, a couple, every now and then. And even in this case the situation in the pond would change. In order to see how the pond-story applies to society, let us briefly see what happened when the cell phone was “launched” into the pond of telecommunications, some decades ago. Actually the cell phone acted like a piranha, though it wasn’t meant to do so; it was, we may say, an “I didn’t mean it, but I’m a piranha” because cellular phones really changed completely the ecosystem of communication. Telephone boxes, for one, almost completely disappeared. Not completely: this happens very rarely. When something new arrives previous forms of life, generally, still manage to exist: quite rarely, the new form of life completely exterminates the previous one. And they kind of gain a special role, a traditional role, where they have their value. And, so, this is what happened to the telephone boxes. Another element that completely changed was the landline. The landline is completely different with respect to a cellular phone. And the most important point on which it’s different is that the landline is for a collective use: you have a landline for a family, a landline for a company… while the cellular phone is personal, the cellular phone belongs to a single person. So also the role of the landline got re-defined and somehow reduced due to the introduction of the cellular phone in the pond. You can easily move on with the cellular phone example by yourself and for the sake of this lesson I think this gives the idea. So now let’s move to the project proposal topic. Why is this useful? Because whenever you write a project proposal, you must be aware that you are entering a pond, a small or a big pond. And so there are some decisions that you have to take. Decision number one is, what kind of fish do you want to be? Do you want to be an aggressive fish? That is going to change everything, kill all the competitors? Or do you want to be like a nice fish, telling everybody “Hey you know guys, no worries, I’m not going to eat anyone, maybe just a small fish, here and there…” So decision number one is, what fish are you going to be? Then you have to show awareness of how the ecosystem is organized and take a decision about the role you want to play in it. Do you want to play a leading role? Do you want to have a marginal role? What is going to happen to the other species? Is anyone going to disappear? Or to just dwindle? Then you also have to show awareness of the critical aspects that your introduction in the ecosystem is going to bring. And do you have any idea of how to cope with them? Eventually and to finish up with something positive, you may also talk about the benefits for the ecosystem of your introduction. Like: the pond is going to thrive as never before and even the toads are going to be happy, there is going to be free food for everybody… Having this ecosystem analogy in mind will help you visualize the context in which your proposal takes place and, more important, how to make it fit.