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Industrial innovation

The Job Challenge

European Social Innovation Competition Second Edition

Few issues have as acute a need for social innovation as tackling unemployment. 27 million people are unemployed across European Member States, with many millions more under-employed, in unsustainable employment, and economically inactive. It is a major challenge – not least for the people who are searching for new jobs, but also for society as a whole.

This challenge is not about numbers and statistics; it is about human beings, their families, communities and futures. Europe is crying out for new ideas on how to unlock fresh talent, skills, experience and insights of people who have a great deal to offer to our economy and society.

The European Commission launched the second edition of the Competition precisely to meet this Job Challenge.

Like the previous edition, the aim of the European Social Innovation Competition was to find the best solutions to help people move towards work or create new types of work.

Last year 605 entries were received from all over Europe. 30 semi-finalists were invited to a Social Innovation Academy in Amsterdam to support the development of their ideas. 10 finalists were selected and eventually 3 winners were awarded by President Barroso on 29 May 2013 in Brussels.

The second edition of the Competition was launched on 11 October 2013, in Milan. It included a strong mentoring component and eventually 3 proposals were each awarded a prize of €30,000 on 29 May 2014 in Brussels, by European Commissioner Michel Barnier. Take a look at the winners.

The European Commission organised this Competition to call for solutions which have a real impact on helping unemployed people get jobs or creating new opportunities for work by, for instance: 

  • Increasing the number of unemployed people who move into work;
  • Increasing the earnings of un- or under-employed people;
  • Increasing the employment of disadvantaged or marginalised groups (e.g. young people, over 50s, people with disabilities, working mothers);
  • Increasing the number of people becoming self-employed or starting their own businesses.

By social innovations we mean innovations that are social in both their ends and their means – new ideas (products, services and models) that simultaneously meet social needs (more effectively than alternatives) and create new social relationships or collaborations. They are innovations that are not only good for society but also enhance society’s capacity to act. Social innovation takes place across boundaries between the public sector, the private sector, the third sector and the households - more background about social innovation.

The field of social innovation in Europe is already offering many examples of solutions that address the unemployment challenge by:

  • Stimulating entrepreneurship and enterprise by helping people to start businesses and helping businesses to develop. This could include accelerator programmes and incubators; training and support for out of work people to become self-employed; and incentives for new businesses to expand by taking on their first member of staff.

    For example, the Business Employment Cooperative model, which offers un- or under-employed people the chance to develop their business idea in a supported environment before making the transition from unemployment benefits.
  • Offering a new approach to employment support, which could include radical approaches to career coaching, confidence building, showcasing employability or building professional networks.

    For example, a mentoring and training programme that helps unemployed people to make the most of their social media presence and online professional networks.
  • Blurring the lines between learning and work by simulating workplace skills in education and training programmes, and offering supported employment opportunities that allow out of work people to learn whilst on the job.

    For example, the Studio Schools model, which has created a new type of schools that are designed to support young people to gain the skills, experiences, and key academic qualifications that they need to succeed in the world of work.
  • Improving the systems that match people to jobs, which could involve pooling workforces for multiple small employers, online platforms that allow individuals to work flexibility on a range of jobs, and job-matching services tailored to the needs of particular disadvantaged groups.

    For example, a web platform for mobile work which allows businesses to access thousands of staff across a wide area, so that they can get fieldwork and location-specific tasks done.
  • Creating and shaping new markets by mobilising capital within the economy or supporting growing sectors. This could include developing new markets in growth sectors such as green economies, medical technologies, complementary currencies and voucher schemes.

    For example, a deposit refund system for containers and packaging, which has the potential to create a new market for employment in the waste-management and recycling sector.

This is not a definite list of actions. Needs are all over the place, unemployment rate is at record level and many solutions are yet to be devised. Those are only illustrations to stimulate creativity. Europe need many more ideas, many more solutions. This is what the Competition was about.

Tell your stories and inspire others on the Twitter account of the Competition (use #diogochallenge) or on Social Innovation Europe platform. As Diogo Vasconcelos was constantly repeating it, social innovation is about sharing!


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