The conference on Mobilising Social Policy Innovation, held on 19 and 20 May in Brussels, showed broad agreement amongst the participants on the need for social policy innovation and social enterprises to be given a greater role in delivering the social outcomes European citizens expect.
Social policy innovation needs to be based on partnerships bringing together public sector, civil society organisations, social entrepreneurs and other private actors.
Identifying priorities for the way forward, the conference took stock of the experiences of 23 innovative projects, as well as of lessons learnt after 5 years of dedicated financial support by the EU.
The call to action was well received by the participants who represented a broad array of key stakeholders: national, regional and local authorities, NGOs, social entrepreneurs and private companies, social service providers and academics.
All evidence available from the EU's work on social policy innovation– including from the projects presented at the conference – show that the most successful social policy innovations involve a broad spectrum of actors.
In particular, closer partnerships between the public sector, civil society, businesses and social entrepreneurs are critical to help reach the Europe 2020 targets, and create momentum and scale.
More and better EU financing for social policy innovation
Within the new programming period of the European Social Fund (2014-2020), there is much more scope to use the ESF in support of social policy innovation. The new regulatory framework facilitates social innovation through a more integrated approach, simplification, thus a better access to funds, and enhanced partnership.
The ESF regulation for the new programming period now allocates a minimum of 20% of resources towards support to social inclusion. As emphasised at the conference, however, this means little unless Member States make best use of the full potential of the European Social Fund.
Direct funding for social policy innovation is also available through the Employment and Social Innovation programme (EaSI) which has a budget of €919 million. The first call for proposals under EaSI was announced at the Conference by Director General Michel Servoz.