The growth of social innovation in Europe is hampered by:
- insufficient knowledge of the needs of the sector: grass roots organisations, social enterprise and social entrepreneurship activities, public sector organisations;
- fragmentation of efforts and resources, lack of transparency and visibility, limited financial support and insufficient technical skills that can support organisations to develop and deliver social innovation;
- poor evaluation and diffusion, and little scale-up of good practices;
- poor methods of impact evaluation of actions and policies.
Coordinated actions at the level of the EU in the field of social innovation are needed as many of the societal challenges that it is addressing have a Europe-wide dimension. Social innovation is developed in an environment of multilevel governance and across sectors or areas of responsibility.
The EU has a catalytic role to play for this purpose. Good practices in some Member states can inspire solutions to other European countries. For example, learning from other countries is an integral part of the ESF. Under the current programming period, around 2% of the budgets of ESF Operational Programmes will be used for transnational cooperation.
There is a real need and potential for innovation in the public sector, because it needs to increase its efficiency (budget constraints) and it needs to deliver new and better quality services that respond to the users' evolving needs and expectations. Social innovation offers a way to tackle societal challenges when the market and public sector do not respond to the social needs.
The non-profit sector in Europe is contributing to 5% of the GDP and about 40 millions employees (20% more than the transportation industry).
Social innovation is today a subject discussed at the international level in the OECD and at the highest political level in big third countries like US, Canada, Australia and in other countries. All these countries express the same needs regarding social innovation: “scaling up” this activity, networking actors, developing common methodologies for measurement; creating capital markets and regulation to attract investments. Europe should participate in these initiatives and have a leadership in this general evolution.
Success by 2014 would look like:
(1) Social Innovation Pilot action completed, as a basis for a European Social Innovation Policy.
(2) Establishing funding mechanisms for funding social and public sector innovators throughout the innovation cycle, by anchoring a social innovation approach and corresponding funding facility in the next generation programmes (ESF, ERDF , FP, CIP) and improving coherence between ongoing EU and MS instruments for social and public sector innovation.
(3) Establishing, in a significant number of member states, and at EU level, capacities and support infrastructures that assist public administrations and stakeholder organisations in raising awareness of the value of social innovations, using social experimentation to prepare for reforms, providing financial support to social innovators, sharing good practice, and scaling up successfully tested innovations.
(4) Anchoring support for social and public sector innovation in the ‘Innovation Union’ Flagship Initiative through the new ‘Innovation Partnerships’.
(1) CIP-funded Social Innovation Pilot action completed, as a basis for a European Social Innovation Policy (lead: ENTR, with close involvement of EMPL, RTD, REGIO, AGRI, BEPA, and other ).
The pilot Social Innovation Initiative will network ongoing and new policies and programmes in the field of social innovation at EU level, in Member States, regions and municipalities, and linking these with activities in civil society, such as social entrepreneurs, the third sector and the social economy.
(2) Learning networks (ESF) and pilot actions (PROGRESS) have been set up in a significant number of member states, and at EU level, developing capacities and support infrastructures that assist public administrations and stakeholder organisations s in raising awareness of the value of social innovations, using social experimentation to prepare for reforms, providing financial support to social innovators, sharing good practice across national borders, and scaling up successfully tested innovations. The new Employment and Social Innovation programme (EaSI) to start in 2014 is based on this experience but will offer many more possibilities.
(3) The ESF will review its investments in institutional capacity building (more than € 2 billion), mutual learning between Member States and transnational cooperation another (€ 2 billion), innovative activities (up to. € 1 billion) and local employment initiatives with a view to identify good practice, capacity building and encouragement for further innovative action.
(4) Establishing funding mechanisms for funding social and public sector innovators in the next generation programmes (ESF, ERDF, EAFRD FP, CIP) and improving coherence between ongoing EU and MS instruments for social and public sector innovation by: (responsible: EMPL, REGIO, AGRI, possibly European Investment Bank)
- Transnational networking and up-scaling of innovations in the public sector and social innovation (including addressing regulatory issues).
- Supporting experimentation.
(5) The European Social Innovation Competition was launched for its first edition in October 2012 and met a real demand with 605 ideas collected from all countries in Europe. Winners of the 3 prizes of EUR 20,000 were awarded in May 2013 and the second edition has been launched in October 2013 under the same banner - The Job Challenge. The Competition is not only a great instrument to directly support some innovative solutions with prizes, mentoring, networking and visibility; it also proves a very powerful vehicle to promote social innovation as such towards politicians, policy-makers, media, investors and more widely towards EU citizens who are facing the consequences of the economic crisis on a daily basis and are getting more and more aware of the upcoming societal challenges.
The work of this action will be linked to the work in Action 27 (research programme in public sector innovation and social innovation).