European Social Innovation Competition

European Social Innovation Competition

The 3 winners of the 2016 Social Innovation Competition were awarded on 27 October 2016. The competition focused on refugees and migrants. An impact prize was also awarded to the project from the last competition that achieved the greatest results. Each winner received a prize of €50,000. The 2017 competition will launch on 28 February 2017 from Athens in Greece.


Launch of the 2017 competition

The 2017 Competition will be launching on 28 February in Athens with an inspiring event gathering some of Europe's brightest social innovators and entrepreneurs doing great things in Greece. Places will be limited so to make sure you get your ticket early – register here!
Details about the Competition – such as theme, rules of contest, application process and timelines – will be made public on this web page from 28 February onwards only.​

The 2016 winners

Selected from a total of 1,095 applicants from 36 countries, Cucula, The Machine to be Another, and Project Virtuous Triangle are the 3 winners of the 2016 European Social Innovation Competition:

  • Cucula is a practical workshop and an educational program created for and together with refugees and migrants in Berlin. It designs, manufactures, produces and sells products, providing technical qualifications with a focus on furniture production. It also runs an education program that includes German language classes, legal advice and additional support for CV writing, job applications, and daily life in Germany.
  • The Machine to Be Another, a virtual reality experience from Spain, is designed to recreate, replicate, and share experiences enabling the user to have a first-person experience of what it's like to be a refugee. It uses a pre-recorded audio ‘narrative’ to create a story and shares these encounters in 360 virtual reality technology. The project aims to create stations of archived narratives from refugees and migrants all around Europe and the world in schools, libraries, museums and other cultural institutions.
  • Project Virtuous Triangle from Turkey matches primary school children from Syria with young Turkish students, alongside a university age ‘coach student’ for tutoring, mentoring and language sharing. The project helps combat segregation in Turkey. Because of this, refugee children are more likely to learn Turkish, attend school, and eventually get a job or take advantage of other future opportunities. The project aims to increase its partnerships with private enterprises, government, schools, and other social innovators to promote community cohesion and solidarity from a young age.

The 3 winners were chosen from a shortlist of 10 finalists that were selected from the first 30 semi-finalists before:

All 30 semi-finalists had the opportunity to participate in a social innovation academy that was organised in Berlin on 4-6 July 2016 in partnership with the BMW Foundation. The semi-finalists met experts and organisations active in the field (see the programme reader).

Before and after the academy, they also received customised mentoring to advance their idea.

The competition reopened and the 30 semi-finalists were asked to submit a detailed plan explaining how they would pilot, implement and sustain their project to achieve the greatest impact. Based on these detailed plans, 10 finalists were selected to compete for the 3 prizes. Watch their journey in this video.

In addition, a fourth ‘Impact Prize’ of €50,000 was awarded to Love Your Waste, a French social enterprise fighting food waste. Love Your Waste was only a semi-finalist in the 2015 Competition but demonstrated impressive impact since the 2015 awards. This was the first ever impact prize awarded in the context of the European Social Innovation Competition.

2016 Competition in a nutshell

The theme - Integrated Futures

The European Commission called for innovations in products, technologies, services and models that can support the integration of refugees and migrants. Innovations could relate to any aspect of the reception and integration process including, but not limited to, ideas around:

  • education and skills development
  • employment and entrepreneurship
  • access to appropriate housing and health services
  • safety and human rights
  • community cohesion and cultural diversity.

The Competition was based on the vision that many refugees and migrants have the potential to be the next entrepreneurs and innovators, but without the right support, their skills could be wasted and they may become marginalised. Innovative and creative approaches were therefore needed to realise their potential for the benefit of Europe as a whole. The Competition was entitled Integrated Futures to reflect this shared objective. Watch the promotional video.

The competition process

It is no longer possible to enter the 2016 competition. The competition was open to individuals, groups and organisations across the European Union and in countries participating in the European Horizon 2020 programme (see list).

The competition has 3 phases:

Phase 1: Out of the 1,095 entries received, 30 semi-finalists were selected to receive mentoring support to advance their ideas. They took part in the Social Innovation Academy to network with other European organisations and potential partners in their field of activity.

Phase 2: Out of the 30 semi-finalists, 10 finalists have been selected and they will be pitching their idea at the Awards Ceremony on 27 October in Brussels, where the 3 final winners will receive a prize of €50,000 each.

Phase 3: the Competition will re-open in 2017 for the 30 semi-finalists exclusively to reward the project which was achieved the greatest results over a year. A fourth impact prize of €50,000 will be awarded on the occasion of the 2017 awards ceremony.

In order to select the best entries throughout the competition, the European Commission was supported by an external jury (316 KB) made up of 12 experts.

The 2016 competition was governed by the following rules of contest, which are specified in the FAQs, and run through a simple entry. All documents are still available for information only:

The rules of contest and all related documents for the 2017 European Social Innovation Competition will be published once it opens, tentatively on 28 February 2017.

Competition background

The European Social Innovation Competition has been organised annually since 2012 in memory of Diogo Vasconcelos. Take a look at the previous competitions:


Follow our #diogochallenge journey on Twitter: @EUSocialInnov.

For questions about the competition, please email: