social innovation at European level, between action and research

Social innovation at European level between action and research. Credit: iStock

The conference “Encouraging social innovation in Europe, from research to action” took place on Friday 11 March in the presence of several European academics, involved in the socio-economic sector, to think about social innovation on a European scale.

At Impact Tank, we are convinced that in order to develop social innovation and bring it to scale, we need researchers to mobilize both to assess, reflect, explain and communicate, and to succeed in pooling funding and public policies. . necessary “, explains Agnès Audier, President of the Battle Tank.

Great themes emerged

During the conference, certain themes emerged as central. First of all, the role of states or the Commission in these matters, what do they do and how can they do more? The training of young academics and officials in these innovation topics was mentioned. In order to develop social innovation, it is actually necessary old and new generations be trained to make them change and scale up, says the president of Impact Tank. And demonstrates the impact of the actions in order to fund them. “If we want to upscale and change rules and laws, we need to be able to demonstrate the impact and define the conditions for implementing the upscaling of what already works,” says Agnès Audier.

Another observation is that it is not the SSE sector that can do it, however trusted third parties, such as academics and companies must also be trained. “We need to ‘cross-fertilize’ between what companies and the SSE sector do. Thus, academics could evaluate the projects in the social economy and companies’ projects with the same methods,” she explains.

There was an exchange on citizen participation in social innovation and the fact that technological innovation is very top-down. Social innovation is part of an approach where it begins to exist on earth and goes up to the actors. “This is also a topic that is not yet really formalized,” she notes.

Entrepreneurs such as Lisa Hehenberger place social innovation at the heart of business models, while Yuna Chiffoleau, Anna Seravalli and Frank Moulaert have questioned the design of social innovation by European private sector decision-makers. According to them and them, and Jürgen Howaldt agrees with this vision, “citizens’ initiatives need to be better considered and encouraged. »

The issue of power measurement

The speakers also returned to the need to measure the impact of social innovation over different time periods, especially in the long run. “The European Union has a key role to play in the development of guidelines as well as available tools that allow actors to easily assess their impact.”

Just as social innovation must be designed and implemented using a participatory approach, the impact measurement process must also be collaborative. The speakers reaffirm that the indicators need to be devised in consultation with the initiators of social innovation in order to define criteria that meet their different needs.

Impact measurement tools should include indicators, but also time for discussion and participatory actions with the local population.

This is especially necessary when it comes to measuring changes in behavior and relationships. Measuring social impact is not, at least not only, the simple evaluation of the economic success of social innovations.

The main challenges of the European Union

Participants then discussed the EU’s role as “coordinator and financier”. It should make it possible to co-construct the guidelines for social innovation without ignoring the specificities of each context. As social innovations are mainly thought at the local level, this is a matter of exploiting European research projects, combining the approaches of the different countries and thinking of upscaling the various existing initiatives.

Finally, one of the EU’s biggest challenges is to encourage each company to commit to meeting current social and environmental challengesvia legislation, taxonomy or even financial incentives.

“This must be part of their goals of creating prosperity and development, while at the same time creating offers or actions that concern vulnerable target groups. This connection is still too weak between SSE and the business community,” concludes Agnès Audier.

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