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Denmark is famous for its large and inclusive welfare system. In Denmark, where institutions generally function well and where everyone receives the same amount and level of services, social innovation is a lot more about supplementing or improving existing public sector-led initiatives. 

The need for social innovation arises as the Danish welfare system is beginning to have problems with providing a satisfactory level of support for its citizens due to its ageing population. Furthermore, the Danish welfare state might be one of the best in the world in terms of providing food on the table, clothes and roof over the head for its citizens but some critics argue that it has been less successful at providing its citizens with a sense of inclusion, purpose, connectedness and belonging. So, whereas material poverty is hard to find in Denmark, social poverty certainly is not.

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 Denmark.

The voices from Denmark:

In 2011, Andreas Hjorth Frederiksen and Anne Sørensen from SOCIAL+ provided a summary of what social innovation in Denmark looked like at that time, especially social innovation in a strong welfare state:

"The universal welfare system acts as a safety net for all citizens, and is based on solidarity. The welfare system is constantly evolving, but this evolution happens in small, slow steps. There are a number of reasons, why the development is slow, such as:

  • The size of the welfare state and public organisations creates inertia, holding them back in, for instance, the field of knowledge sharing
  • The complexity of the public sectors task and work – many professionals and stakeholders are involved in developing new initiatives
  • The fear of making mistakes minimizes risk taking – risk taking is an essential part of any innovation process
  • The public sector are under financial pressure – few resources are left for development

So while the welfare state holds the main responsibility for solving social problems in Denmark – social innovation is under pressure because of the conditions in a strong public sector. First of all, there is a lack of infrastructure supporting social innovators and social innovation."

Read more on this as well as new sectors and actors getting involved in their full contribution here.

In 2015, John René Keller Lauritzen from the Danish Technological Institute wrote on article on social innovation in Denmark. He discusses the developments that have taken place at multiple levels:

"Policy-makers at all levels are slowly beginning to recognise the importance and potential of social innovation. Although it often happens under headings such as ‘citizen engagement’, ‘promotion of social enterprises’ and ‘inclusion of volunteers’ a lot of important initiatives have been set in motion over the past 4 or 5 years to promote the agenda.

At the national level, multiple initiatives have been launched to provide enabling framework conditions and financial support for social enterprises. A National Centre for Social Enterprises has been set up to provide support and sparring for social entrepreneurs and enterprises.

At the regional and local government level, municipalities are increasingly prioritising the mobilisation and inclusion of non-public actors in addressing societal challenges. Around 1/3 of Danish Municipalities are members of the Danish Municipality Network on Social Innovation and an increasing number of them are experimenting with schemes such as social impact bonds, participatory budgeting, community-led development initiatives and schemes to support social enterprises.

In the third sector, civil society organisations continue to think up, test and implement new effective schemes, and new actors, such as housing and sports associations, have started to embrace the role as social innovators..."

Read more with examples in the full article here.