Across the world, millions of people are creating better ways to tackle some of the most challenging social problems of our times. This is Social Innovation. The current financial and economic crisis makes it more important than ever.
Social innovation can create new products, services and businesses to strengthen Europe’s relative position in growing fields such as healthcare and environmental services. Social innovators design public services that are better tailored to citizens' needs and greater value for money. To boost social innovation, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso inaugurated the European Commission's Social Innovation Prize at the Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon on October 1. Mr Barroso invited Europe's innovators to come up with solutions for unlocking today’s potential to create tomorrow’s work. In 2013 three outstanding ideas will each be awarded a €20 000 cash prize by Antonio Tajani, Vice President of the European Commission.
Why and how will the competition work?
President Barroso launched the Prize Competition in memory of Diogo Vasconcelos, a social innovator and Director of a leading global IT company who died prematurely in 2011 at the age of 43. The award will honour Diogo Vasconcelos's legacy by promoting and supporting the best of social innovation and enabling individuals to create positive change for their societies through the application of creativity and passion. In its inaugural year, the competition invites proposals that address the specific challenge of “unlocking potential and creating new work.” An expert jury will select a maximum of 30 semi-finalists for mentoring and from these will confirm some 10 finalists; from these three winners will be selected who each receive a prize of €20 000 in May 2013. After the ceremony winners and finalists will be offered additional mentoring support to mature their implementation plan.
At today’s event, President Barroso and the audience of social innovators, business and political leaders launched the competition through simultaneous tweets all across Europe #diogochallenge.
What is social innovation?
While the term is relatively new, the creativity of social innovators is far from a novelty. Social innovators have generated products, services or new process that do everything from making kindergartens to better residences for elderly people, and can come up with new solutions to climate change and poverty – like microfinance. In other words social innovations is about new solutions that bring about more than "just" jobs, growth and competitiveness – it contributes with something to society as a whole. Social innovation is social in its nature, springing from the sharing of ideas and collaboration to fully realise their potential. Most of all, the values that drive social innovation are our most dearly held ideals: solidarity, inclusiveness, and fairness. "These were values that drove Diogo Vasconcelos throughout his life and which we honour” said President Barroso. “Today’s launch of the European Social Innovation Competition is a call to share the ideas and solutions that will shape work, inspire new employment, and capitalise on Europeans’ diverse skills.”
About Diogo Vasconcelos
Diogo Vasconcelos chaired a Business Panel on Future EU innovation policy in January 2009 to provide input to the next European Commission, in the context of post 2010 Lisbon strategy. He was the Chairman of the Social Innovation eXchange (SIX), a global community of over 400 individuals and organizations committed to promoting social innovation. Chosen by Portuguese business newspaper as Entrepreneur of the Year and one of the country’s leading personalities in 2008, Diogo was founder and president of UMIC, the Portuguese Knowledge Society Agency reporting to the Prime Minister Jose Manuel Barroso. As President of UMIC, he created and leaded the implementation of the eGoverment Action Plan and National Broadband Initiative. He became the Knowledge Economic Advisor to the Portuguese President of Republic Prof Cavaco Silva and lead the President’s widely studied digital campaign and “digital presidency”.
How to enter the Europe Social Innovation Competition
The Competition is open to everyone (individuals, organisations or groups) established or resident in EU member states and in countries with an agreement to participate in the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme(see for latest list: http://ec.europa.eu/cip/faq/index_en.htm#0901262484312773). Ideas and proposals from all sources, sectors and all types of organisations including for-profit, non-for-profit, or private companies are welcome.
Applications can be submitted via the website at http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/policies/innovation/policy/social-innovation/competition/index_en.htm prior to 21st December 2012.
Selection of semi-finalists will take place in January-February 2013. Semi-finalists will be offered coaching by international business, communication and finance professionals, social economy entrepreneurs and public sector organisations.
Selection of finalists will take place in April 2013. The award ceremony in May 2013 will distinguish the best three ideas and reward their authors with 20,000 euros to implement their proposals.
Further information is available via the website at http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/policies/innovation/policy/social-innovation/index_en.htm.
Social innovation, why not do things differently if it works better?
Social innovation is a generic term to designate innovations that are social in both their ends and their means. They are 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 leads to better solutions to tackle some of the most challenging social problems of our times: climate change, chronic disease, social exclusion, and material poverty. Often ideas come to life through collaborations that cut across the public and private sectors, civil society, and households. Frequently, they make use of new technologies, including broadband and mobile communication. Some of their successes are now part of everyday life, from microcredit in rural communities to web platforms linking teachers and learners, as well as banking services using mobile phones, community land trusts, restorative justice programmes, and more.
But social innovation is not just about generous or respectable ideas; it is about results, both in terms of well-being for the society and of economic outputs, for competitiveness, growth and jobs. Some examples are listed below.
Social innovation in figures
The term “social innovation” is a relatively new one, but social innovation itself is not new. There are many examples of social innovations throughout history, from kindergartens to hospices, and from the cooperative movement to microfinance. A “field” of social innovation, however, is a new idea. Discussions often focus on the terminology and around the world many organisations offer different definitions, making it difficult to draw boundaries and estimate its exact social and economic weight.
Yet social economy and entrepreneurship in the European Union is estimated to represent: