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Social innovation

Older people in computer class


Social innovation means developing new ideas, services and models to better address social issues. It invites input from public and private actors, including civil society, to improve social services.


Social innovation will play a crucial role in addressing several key questions:

  • How to address societal challenges effectively and efficiently within a tight budget?
  • What does strategic social investment look like and how can social policy support it?
  • How to support people in lifelong learning to ensure adequate livelihoods in a changing world?
  • How can innovative partnerships bring private and non-governmental resources to complement state funding?
  • How to strengthen evidence-based knowledge in policy-making and reforms?

Policy response

Social innovation is part of the social investment package, and must be embedded in policy making and connected to social priorities, such as implementing country specific recommendations (including through the use of the European Social Fund).

Social policy experimentation tests the validity of new innovative policies by collecting evidence about the real impact of measures on people. These "experiments":

  • bring innovative answers to social needs
  • are small-scale probing interventions to test impact
  • made in conditions where their impact can be measured
  • can be scaled up if the results prove convincing.

For more information, see the methodological guide to social policy experimentation.

EU governments need to develop regulatory environments that enable and encourage social innovation and social economy, in addition to providing sufficient financial support.

National authorities can develop social enterprises by commissioning them to provide social services. They can also promote Corporate Social Responsibility.

The Commission's role is to provide guidance on:

See also:


To promote social policy experimentation, the Commission provides funding through the PROGRESS programme.

Detailed lists of funded projects: