The Social Innovation Community’s final event Beyond Imagination - a Socially Innovative Europe was a milestone for a number of reasons. Here we share some first highlights, stay tuned and more will follow in the coming weeks.
The event brought together 38 speakers from across Europe, hundreds of participants from 25 countries, in order to close a fruitful European project- one with multiple partners, as well as numerous successful activities and projects, but also to bring visions for the future into reality.
Seville made sense as a city to host the event, not only because the Commission’s Joint Research Centre for Social Innovation is located there, but because there was a desire to get away from the traditional final event locations of Brussels, Paris and Lisbon.
The event was noticeably different from other final European Commission events, principally because instead of just presenting results and giving each other a round of applause, the SIC Finale challenged participants to think about how they can build on the success of the project and in particular the project’s recently launched and supported Social Innovation Declaration (#SIDeclaration), in order to further reinforce and strengthen the position of social innovation in the continent before the pivotal elections that will take place in May 2019. Over two days, the event explored a number of major areas in relation to the future of social innovation in Europe. Two of them were.
How to make best use of the achieved success?
There is now a clear political will and backing of social innovation from the European Commission. Carlos Moedas endorsed the #SIDeclaration, and further backed social innovation at the Web Summit in Lisbon the week before the Seville Finale. This sentiment was echoed at the SIC final event by a number of speakers:
Erika Widegren: ‘Europe is ready to open up, there are so many efforts from a Brussels level to engage. It’s really hard but there is the will.’
Phillipe Martin: ‘In terms of discussion of the proposals put forward by EC & member states, it’s a really key time. it’s also a time when a number of budgets and programmes are being discussed - the declaration must not only have been written, but it must be supported.’
Slawomir Tokarski: ‘We want to empower social innovators not just because they know best how to tackle local challenges, but also because it can help reduce the democratic deficit.’
Gianluca Misuraca: ‘Social innovation allows European Commission to work across the continent and better help and understand local challenges.’
Gianluca Misuraca: ‘An EU investment allocation of €4 billion for social innovation can leverage €50 billion and represent an opportunity to move from niche to change the rules of the game.’
Now that the political will and backing of social innovation is there, how can it best be utilised and sustained?
- Challenges remain. How can the successes of social innovation be maintained in the face of uncertainty?
Despite these significant steps forward, uncertainties and challenges remain. Now is not the time to be complacent, as crisis looms. With European elections coming in May 2019 and a genuine risk that the political backing of social innovation in Europe could dry up overnight, key speakers spoke of a need for social innovation to embed itself within the public debate, listen, communicate itself effectively, as well as return to its values and reconnect with community.
Eddy Adams: ‘Sometimes when you think you are at you high point, you are actually at your low point.’
Pat Kane: ‘There is a real sense of if we don’t get into community life and the imagination of community of life - we are ceding the ground to other people who are also going to try to get into that life’
Gorka Espiau: ‘The social innovation community is not listening. We say we are and we say we have the tools to capture opinions, but we are applying a very instrumental way of listening, without understanding the social dynamics. We are listening very superficially and not in a proper way.’
Gorka Espiau: ‘We don’t want to engage in real conversations because we are in a safe space.’
Jana Hainsworth: ‘No one really understands & connects with what the EU is doing, can do and how it connects to the local level’
Eddy Adams: ‘We need to go back to values. We can’t be complacent as this is an emergency.’
Although the title of the Seville event implies a sense of finality, it is not the end for the project a sustainability plan will ensure a continued best dissemination and sharing of the wealth of social innovation resources and materials produced over the past three years. The framing for much of the SIC Final Event came from the Social Innovation Declaration. To read the declaration in full, and to find out how your endorsement can help embed social innovation into future European Commission policy follow this link.
Have any questions about the SIC project or the final event? Don’t hesitate to get in contact.