Under the Innovation Union Initiative, the European Commission (EC) launched last week a new initiative aimed at social innovation called Social Innovation Europe. This pilot initiative will link entrepreneurs with the public and voluntary sectors across Europe to develop and deliver products and services that address unmet social needs.
In his speech, Durao Barroso, President of the EC, explained that “social innovation is about meeting the unmet social needs and improving social outcomes (…) At a broader level it is about addressing societal challenges in which the boundary between ‘social’ and ‘economic’ blurs and which are directed towards society as a whole”. The President mentioned this example, the Projeto Geracao (the generation project) in Portugal or the second-chance schools in France.
Barroso emphasized that social innovation empower citizens to become co-creators of innovative social relationships and models of collaboration. “Social innovation should be at the core of our social market economy and also contribute to make our social market economy more competitive”, he remarked. In this sense, innovation is a cornerstone of Europe 2020 strategy for growth and jobs.
Social innovation can address issues as environment, social inclusion, education and training.
The President stressed the need to bring public and private stakeholders together to identify and deploy innovative solutions to benefit old people -in many EU countries, elder care alone is due to reach 5% of GDP in a few years- and its associated health and caring costs. He also expressed the need “to make the most and the best of the potential of ICTs for improving our ability to meet those social needs, such as e-Health in healthcare.
“Active and healthy ageing is precisely our pilot Innovation Partnership It will aim to give Europeans an average of two extra years of healthy life by 2020. So most of us will benefit from this innovation initiative”, Barroso explained.
The Social Innovation Europe Initiative –said the President- will address the four main difficulties that hamper social innovation in Europe: the insufficient knowledge of users’ needs, from NGOs and patients to public sector and social entrepreneurs; the fragmentation of efforts and resources – funding and skills -; the poor diffusion and little scale up of good practices; and the poor evaluation of actions and policies.
It will also support the development of other policy areas, in particular social policy, health care and environment policies. Also this initiative will offer a very promising platform for connecting, learning and networking for anyone interested in social innovation.