Social Innovation Declaration can contribute to the implementation of the social innovation agenda in ESF+

Social Innovation Declaration can contribute to the implementation of the social innovation agenda in ESF+


The recently adopted Social Innovation Declaration states that innovation should benefit everyone and calls on the next EU budget to support social innovation and help Europe achieve a "Social Triple A”.

Social innovation has long been present within the European Social Fund, though it has been approached differently by different Member States. In addition social experimentations, deinstitutionalisation and simplification may all be considered as social innovation.

Social innovation occupies a prominent place in the draft regulation for ESF+, which takes in the current EaSI (Employment and Social Innovation) programme. Article 13 states:

  1. Member States shall support actions of social innovation and social experimentations, or strengthen bottom-up approaches based on partnerships involving public authorities, the private sector, and civil society such as the Local Action Groups designing and implementing community-led local development strategies.
  2. Member States may support the upscaling of innovative approaches tested on a small scale (social experimentations) developed under the Employment and Social Innovation strand and other Union programmes.
  3. Innovative actions and approaches may be programmed under any of the specific objectives set out in points (i) to (x) of Article 4(1).
  4. Each Member State shall dedicate at least one priority to the implementation of paragraphs 1 or 2 or to both. The maximum co-financing rate for these priorities may be increased to 95% for the allocation of maximum 5% of the national ESF+ allocation under shared management to such priorities.

Both ESF Managing Authorities and the beneficiaries they serve could benefit from developing new solutions to evolving social problems, and by adopting the methodologies of social innovation in order to promote change.

The Social Innovation Community, a project funded within the Horizon 2020 programme, initiated the Social Innovation Declaration, which is a good starting point both for reflection and as regards actions to be taken by the European Commission and the Member States.

The Declaration identifies five priorities that Europe should address. These are:

  • Making funding suitable for small-scale experimentation, spreading and scaling impact
  • Enabling citizens and civil society to lead local change initiatives through community-led innovation
  • Strengthening the capacity, skills and incentives for public officials and policy-makers to support and draw on (citizen-led) social innovation
  • Making public procurement an instrument of social innovation policy
  • Prioritising the spreading of social innovation to regions where it is needed most

Policy recommendations

The Declaration offers 10 policy recommendations to support social innovation for a fairer, more resilient and inclusive Europe in the context of the next Multiannual Financial Framework for the period 2021-2027. As regards the ESF the most prominent are the following:

  • The European Commission should actively support EU countries to use ESF+ for social innovation, for example, through fostering in-country expertise that can help engage civil society and social innovation actors, share insights in project development, evaluation and scaling-up of impact, and help monitor and improve countries’ approaches to using the funds for innovative actions;
  • Member States should expand the number of regional social innovation support organisations.

Further information

Sign the declaration online


Coming soon: dossier on social innovations in the ESF.