[Excerpt] This report presents the findings of a research project exploring the involvement of new partners – in particular, the social partners, civil society and people in vulnerable situations – in social innovation. For the purposes of the research, ‘social innovation’ is defined as new ideas (products, services and models) that simultaneously resolve societal challenges, meet social needs and create new social relationships among the groups concerned. Social innovation can involve such aspects as new participation in decision-making, services affecting the social situation of specific target groups (provided commercially or not) and changes in social care systems. It is part of cultural development and societal change.
The research was carried out at EU level – focusing especially on the role of the European Social Fund (ESF) in social innovation – and in six Member States: Austria, Bulgaria, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Sweden. It examined the innovation and social partnership culture in each country, and analysed to what extent national-level policies have been triggered by EU policy. The research also includes three case studies carried out in Ireland, Slovenia and Sweden, presenting initiatives that the social partners, or those in vulnerable situations, have been involved in designing and implementing.
The objective of this study is to inform, with an evidence-based approach, the policy debate on social innovation, and contribute to a better understanding of effective and sustainable processes. The study also aims to explore how social innovation can be most effectively supported in different phases: from initiation, through consistent delivery of good quality services, to identification of good practice.