On the policy side, the European Commission has namely two initiatives that set the landscape for social innovation. On one hand, the social investment package (2013) sets the main policy guidelines in social areas such as poverty, social exclusion, active ageing, education, employment etc. Next to this, the Social Business Initiative (2011) has a specific focus on social entrepreneurship as well as social economy.
Social investment package (DG Employment and Social Affairs)
In 2013 the Commission adopted a new approach to social policy, formalised in the Social Investment Package (SIP), marks another turning point for the recognition of the value and support for social innovation as a vehicle for the implementation of the Member States’ social policies.
The SIP provides a strategic social and health investment approach to the modernisation of these policies. This also involves a more prominent role for enabling and activating policies, focusing on simple, targeted and conditional social investment and a systematic approach to the role of social protection throughout the different stages of life. It also fosters innovation to achieve more sustainable health systems.
Within this new approach, social innovation is deemed to play a crucial role to address societal challenges effectively and efficiently within a tight budget; to design social policies around strategic social investment; to address gender challenges in a more coherent manner, to support people in lifelong learning, to ensure adequate livelihoods in a changing world; to bring private and non-governmental resources to complement state funding through innovative partnerships and to strengthen evidence-based knowledge in policymaking and reforms.
For that purpose, social innovation (and social policy experimentation), need to be embedded in mainstream policymaking and connected to social priorities, such as the implementation of the country-specific recommendations (CSRs), including through the use of the ESF. From the EU side there is a clear need for a more systematic consideration of the information provided by Member States on social innovation and social policy reforms in their National Reform Programmes (NRPs), in particular on how social innovation is included in national policymaking in relevant social policy areas
The SIP Communication urges Member States to pursue active and enabling policies oriented towards social investment, in order to:
- Prioritise social policy innovation in the implementation of relevant CSRs and report through NRPs;
- Develop concrete strategies for social innovation, such as public-private third sector partnerships;
- Enable older people to realise their potential, using the opportunities of the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing;
- Ensure adequate and predictable financial support for these strategies, including through micro-financing;
- Provide training, networking and mentoring in order to support evidence-based policies;
- Fully take advantage of funding opportunities provided by the ESF and ERDF, as well as other European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) and the new Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI), to test new approaches to social policies (such as ICT-enabled innovation) and scale up the most effective innovations; and
- Explore and develop innovative ways of securing additional private financing for social investment.
Social Business initiative (DG Growth)
In 2011 the Commission adopted a Social Business Initiative (SBI) which is a comprehensive roadmap to support the development of enabling environment for social enterprises. It included three key dimensions:
- Improve social businesses’ access to funding (including EU funding through the Structural Funds and the setting-up of a financial instrument to provide social in- vestment funds and financial intermediaries with equity, debt, and risk-sharing instruments).
- Improve their visibility (mapping of social enterprises, database of labels, support for local and national authorities to build integrated strategies for social enterprises, information and exchange platform).
- Create a simplified regulatory environment (including a proposal for a European Foundation Statute, revision of the public procurement rules and state aid measures for social and local services).
Social innovation Europe
Social Innovation Europe (SIE) was established in 2011 as the first pilot action on social innovation under the Innovation Union. Funded by DG GROWTH, the SIE platform has become a community of over 3000 people across Europe, a go to place to understand the context of social innovation in different countries, and a database of organisations and events across Europe. SIE connects with policy makers, funders and foundations, private sector organisations and social enterprises, NGOs and social service organisations, as well as think tanks, centres for social innovation and most importantly, practitioners.
More information on social innovation here