The term "social innovation" is relatively new, but the concept itself is not. There are many examples of social innovation throughout history, from kindergartens to hospices, and from the cooperative movement to microfinance.
What is social innovation?
Social innovations are new ideas (products, services and models) that simultaneously meet social needs (more effectively than alternatives) and create new social relationships or collaborations.
(Open Book of Social Innovation, Murray, Calulier-Grice and Mulgan, March 2010)
These solutions are both social in their ends and in their means. They can take the form of genuine innovations or of improved solutions. In some parts of Europe, the term "social innovation" refers to what the European Commission calls workplace innovation.
What do we do about social innovation?
In coordination with other departments of the European Commission, we foster social innovation in Europe in many ways:
|Networking||We help organisations across Europe to connect, learn from each other and share experiences – Social Innovation Europe was launched in March 2011. It is a collaborative hub set up for that purpose, anyone is welcome to register and contribute.|
|Competition||We organise the European Social Innovation Competition every year to directly support new solutions and raise awareness about social innovation – go to the Competition webpages. Social innovation is also covered by other EU awards such as the RegioStars awards. We also partner with competitions outside, such as the Naples 2.0 – International Social Innovation Competition or the Social Innovation Tournament organised by the European Investment Bank Institute.|
|EU funding possibilities||We offer direct funding to support social innovation – ask about the Progress Programme or the Employment and Social Innovation Programme (EaSI) and learn how social innovation may be funded from 2014 onwards in your country or region under the EU structural and investment funds in the Guide to Social Innovation (2013).|
|Finance||We share information about available financial support, which can be mobilised from public sector organisations, foundations or private investors; main ones are presented in the report Financing social impact. Funding social innovation in Europe - mapping the way forward [846 KB] issued in February 2012.|
|Framework conditions||We improve the conditions for social innovation and social enterprises in Europe – learn about the latest activities under the Social Business Initiative and sign the Declaration for Social Entrepreneurship produced by the participants in the Strasbourg event on 16-17 January 2014.|
|Results||We gather and disseminate evidence about the benefits of social innovation and methodologies for result measurement – see the report Strengthening social innovation in Europe Journey to effective assessment and metrics [2 MB] issued in November 2012.|
|Incubation||We support incubation structures for social innovation in Europe – read the conclusions of the workshop [3 MB] organised in March 2012 and get in touch with the two EU-wide networks of incubators put in place in October 2013, Transition and Benisi.|
|Scaling up||We encourage innovators to think big from the beginning and to aim for systemic change in Europe – we explore the issue in Systemic Innovation [712 KB] of December 2012.|
The Directorate General Enterprise and Industry funds the following current projects:
Where can you get more information?
Send us an email and we will answer your questions!
Find more on social innovation:
Keep in touch: