The start of Social Innovation Europe in Brussels
2011 – On 16 and 17 March 2011, the Social Innovation Europe Initiative took place in Brussels. The meeting was attended by, social innovators, academics, entrepreneurs, strategists, policy makers and innovators from the 27 Member States of the European Union.
The event was a combination of speeches, panel discussions and workshops. In one of the first speeches the European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, Laszlo Andor, emphasized the need to take risks. Social innovation should be an integral part of policy in order to anticipate emerging social needs better.
According to three speakers, social innovation is needed to create new markets and jobs and to change our ideas about growth and improvement. This initiative from the EU will maintain networks and strengthen the links between social innovators in Europe, so they can find better solutions faster.
The first panel discussion was titled: ‘Putting a face to the policy: perspectives from different Directorates-General in the European Commission’. The panelists discussed how their directorates are dealing with social innovation. Participants raised the rate at which social innovation can bring about change and knowledge it can create, but also the connections that it causes between various departments and the bureaucracy that it may bring along.
In the second panel discussion six prominent pioneers had the stage. Successively passed in review: a model for the mainstreaming of social innovations, a secure personal online network for people who have a personal crisis, DenokInns Social Innovation Park in Spain, the use of experimental techniques in the social domain with support of the government, the use of IT to bring older people in contact with each other both in the virtual and the physical world and the need for academics to go down from their ivory tower to cooperate with the private and public sector.
During dinner President Barroso said that social innovation occurs when the boundaries between the social and the economic are fading. Precisely by mixing these domains social innovation can have a huge effect. It is not smart to cut investments in innovation. Now it is the moment to build on the tradition and to make Europe a world leader using social innovation.
The third panel discussed what Europe can and should do. There were discussed concrete actions that are in line with the agenda for social innovation as well as ways to measure social innovation, the role of intermediaries and values that can motivate entrepreneurs.
There were workshops on how social innovation is created and with which instruments it can be promoted. In the first group, workshops were included on: the ecology of finance, the evaluation of social innovations and ways to scale successful innovations. The second group consisted of workshops on: active aging in Europe, innovation in work and in cities and eco-innovation.
The ideas that were generated in these workshops were collected by reporters and then inserted into an ‘ideas auction’ under the guidance of a professional auctioneer. Popular innovations included: a loan system for applied research in social innovation, a design model for bringing portfolios in balance for entrepreneurs who support many social initiatives, a plan to spread innovations through ‘community-supported pop-up shops’ and the certifying of good practices. More ideas are on the website www.socialinnovationeurope.eu.
At the end of the event plans were announced to finance the mapping of social innovations across Europe on a large-scale. Participants were encouraged to use their acquired insights and contacts to embrace the social innovation agenda, to discuss the current way of working and to deploy their imagination and creativity. All this in order for Europe to become one of the leaders in the field of social innovation.
The event was followed by a series of reports, the first of which, on the financing of social innovation, was published in June 2011. And there is an online hub based on the networks and expertise that have been created during the event. On this website, case studies and profiles of prominent social innovators as well as analyzes of ‘thought leaders’ and information on policy initiatives that have an impact on social innovation. The website is also a platform for participation.
The full report ‘Conference Report, Social Innovation Europe Launches in Brussels: the Innovation Union moves forward’ is attached. For actual information see the website: www.socialinnovationeurope.eu.