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The history of social innovation in the Czech Republic is not long. The concept was first mentioned in the evaluation of innovativeness of the Operational Programme Human Resources and Employment (OPHRE) published in 2012. The guidelines for systemic support of social innovations, formulated by the researchers at the Centre for Innovation Studies in Prague, included 60 steps to be undertaken in coming years. One of the recommendations included organizing pilot calls for social innovation projects, which were indeed launched in 2013 and 2014. 

Some of the challenges social innovators in Czech Republic face include the ageing population and increasing social costs including inefficient health, pension, and labour market systems. More specifically, the problem of low governance quality at all levels of public administration, including its low knowledge capacity, and high risk aversion makes the social innovations more difficult to undertake or get supported.

Social innovation is time and context specific. That means it can mean different things in different context. What might not seem innovative in one country, may be ground breaking in another. The political and cultural background is important to understand. There are also a wide variety of organisations involved in this field, each have different perspectives. So, the purpose of this page is to demonstrate a variety of views on what social innovation means to different kinds of organisations in Czech Republic.

The voices from Czech Republic:

In 2011, Anna Kaderabkova, Director of Centre for Innovation Studies at the University of Economics and Management, provided an overview of what social innovation looked like in the Czech Republic. This included a highlight on challenges faced by social innovators:

"...they are mostly similar to other EU members –ageing population, increasing social costs (inefficient health, pension, labour market systems).  More specifically, the mentioned problem of low governance quality at all levels of public administration, including its low knowledge capacity, and high risk aversion makes the social innovations more difficult to undertake or get supported. More specifically, as social innovations often cover diverse policy agendas, the overall weakness of horizontal (inter-departmental) coordination causes delays or irresponsibilities. On the side of bottom-up social innovators, they often lack knowledge and experience in the field, as there is no social innovation infrastructure developed (as compared to the technical innovation capacities)."

Read the full contribution here to learn more on the history and challenges.

In 2016, Anna Kaderbkova provided an update to the previous contribution, mentioning Operational Programme Human Resources and Employment (OPHRE) 2012 guidelines for systemic support of social innovations which a recommendation on organizing pilot calls for social innovation, which was launched in 2013 and 2014.

"Altogether 17 projects were supported in OPHRE, the first in the country, which specifically targeted solutions of social problems through social innovations. The pilots were quite important as they offered a unique learning opportunity – how to develop the systemic support of social innovations, which would reflect the country and local specifics. Not only the novelty of the social innovation concept itself was important but also the implementation of self-evaluation of social impact as an instrument of learning and improvement. A comprehensive toolbox (together with an intense and individualized support) was created to guide the social innovators through the process starting with evaluation plan and finishing with final evaluation report. All the social innovation actors were learning continuously which practices work and which do not, what risks are imminent, what constrains are threatening."

It goes on to mention how the international prize, SozialMarie, which is awarded to social innovators by the Austrian private foundation Unruhe since 2005, plays an important role to the development of social innovation:

"Step by step the reputation of the prize has been increasing in the country. In 2015, four presentations of the Czech social innovators were organized in Prague, attracting representatives of non-profits, government and foundations. In 2016, a more active engagement of business sector is targeted, especially through innovative approaches to still prevailing traditional view of corporate social responsibility (the platform of Association for Social Responsibility, can contribute in these efforts as it connects actors from diverse institutional sectors). Meanwhile a close informal link between the OPHRE and SozialMarie activities has developed, based on sharing of expertise and experience."     

The contribution also provides examples of the business sector in social innovations:  

  • Vodafone Foundation started the programme supporting technology-based solutions of social problems which was turned in Vodafone Lab, since 2013 supporting selected social business/innovation projects through mentoring and financial incentives.
  • A similar programme to the above by Ceska sporitelna/Erste Group, called Impact First.
  • The Social Impact Award for student social businesses has been organized by Erste Group in the Czech Republic since 2012, gradually focusing more on the accelerating activities. All the mentioned initiatives make the social innovation ecosystem in the country richer, however, only exceptionally the supported projects have been able of generating a long-term sustainable impact or upscaling capacity. 

Read the full contribution to learn more about support coming from structural funds and more on the current limitations of social innovation capacities in Czech Republic.