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News | 2021-10-20

Competence centres build momentum for social innovation

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The session on 13 October 2020 gave attendees a crash course on the future of social innovation (SI) projects in EU regions, cities and rural areas.

Under the backdrop of the European Week of Regions and Cities, the technical workshop spotlighted some of the amazing work the six transnational projects have undertaken to date.  The projects are the first in a series of initiatives planned with the hopeful result of  building social innovation “Competence Centres” in nearly all EU Member States. 

What are Competence Centres?

Funded in part through the 2014-2020 European Social Fund and the EU programme for Employment and Social Innvation (EaSI) a series of six consortia were selected to set up national competence centres and drive social innovation – locally, regionally, nationally and transnationally.Covering 25 countries and mobilising 148 organisations, the consortia will aim to cultivate networks, build capacities and synergies, spotlight efficiencies and develop the tools and methods that will be essential to growing social innovation (SI) across the EU.  A novel approach to social innovation, the idea was Introduced by an ESF+ call in 2020 – with results, action plan for next steps expected in 2023.

Meeting challenges

One continuous challenge in the field of social innovation is how to scale up the innovative solutions and their impact.  According to Mikael Barth, Team Leader at a French non-profit working to consolidate work on growing successful SI projects ‘Scaling-up is not something you do overnight, it’s a real project in itself. At Avise, we analyse it through an entrepreneur point of view’ 

Further, many of the partners’ resulting projects are specifically designed to ensure a focus on rural communities - often at greatest risk of not benefitting from new technologies and organisational solutions.  Grit Kuhne, who works for Diakonisches Werk Schleswig-Holstein (DW-SH), a network supporting marginalised and deprived people through social work and social service provision, has highlighted the importance of ‘gaining a precise understanding of demands and needs in remote areas – but also on how to make the best use of available resources.’

What’s Next?   

The workshop focused on the importance of establishing different organisational structures or networks depending on a country, region or community’s needs. What is common, is that they are expected to become a reliable source of knowledge and expertise.  From an ESF+ perspective, this work will inform attempts to set up also a European Competence Centre for Social Innovation – with a transnational cooperation platform that would allow far greater levels of collaboration across Europe.