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In France, social innovation is closely linked with three other fields of intervention:

  • the social and solidarity-based economy (économie sociale et solidaire or ESS) as the umbrella for all interventions;
  • social entrepreneurship: social enterprises are businesses set up for a social, societal or environmental purpose and not aiming at profit maximisation. They seek to involve their stakeholders in their governance;
  • social impact: Any organisation set up for a social purpose seeks to generate a positive social impact. Assessing the social impact plays a crucial role in the social and solidarity-based economy and the enterprises of which it consists.

The above reflects a vision of social innovation in France which is oriented towards an entrepreneurial approach, in contrast to other current definitions and practices in other countries – including other social innovations in the voluntary sector – within social movements whose aim is not to set up businesses but to support citizen projects. Although such a citizen movement also exists in France, it is still not well established in the social innovation field.

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