Social innovation and social economy in Greece are relatively new concepts mainly associated to what is known as ‘Solidarity Economy’. While in other European countries discussions related to social innovation have taken place for almost 30 years now, in Greece, organised forms of social ventures are apparent for only about 10 years, though in an experimental stage. It was especially due to the economic crisis that heavily hit Greece that has led to social innovation becoming a necessity.
In September 2011, a law for Social Economy and Social Entrepreneurship was passed by the parliament and the distinct legal form of Co-operative Social Enterprises was created. As of January 2015 over 700 Social Cooperative Enterprises have been established. The Social Economy is not the only channel; the Orthodox Church also stands as a significant actor of social innovation in Greece.
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 Greece.
The voices from Greece:
In 2011, Fani Dami provided a brief overview of what social innovation in Greece looked like at the time. She touches on Greece's law for Social Economy and Social Entrepreneurship:
"A recent study on entrepreneurship, foresees that social entrepreneurship will contribute both to employment and innovation. It is also considered important for the socio-economic integration of socially excluded groups and for the strengthening of alternative forms of local development. Therefore, it is very positive that social economy is now included in the national policy agenda; and hopefully instead of becoming the substitute for the dismantling of the welfare state, it will actively support inclusive alternative structures."
Read the full contribution here to gain a general understanding of social innovation in Greece.
In 2011, Dr. Ioannis K. Nasioulas from the Social Economy Institute built on the general overview by discussing the channels of social innovation and the "enemies" of it. He notes the political system, criticizing the Social Economy and Social Entrepreneurship law:
"It would certainly sound peculiar, but the mightiest enemy to social innovation is the political system and the state administration in Greece. Regrettably, this also includes the format of the currently introduced Law 4019/2011 on Social Economy and Social Entrepreneurship, which many say it was constructed in favor of various groups related to the politico-state system and the funding mechanisms tightly controlled by it. The third sector should be constructed in Greece but not as a subsidiary to patronage and clientele systems of social corruption as seen in the past decades."
Read "Orthodox Social Economies and The Enemies of Social Innovation" in full here.
In 2015, Dr. Ioannis K. Nasioulas provided another contribution, outlining some of the challenges with social innovation in Greece.
"Greece was heavily hit by the economic crisis which is still persistent: with an unemployment rate reaching 27% and a corresponding rate of youth unemployment around 60%, social cohesion has been put under critical stress. The social state suffers chronic deficiencies and social institutions have come to the fore combating state, private and third sector failures with scarce resources. Social innovation has become a necessity, since disinvestment in social development has become the norm.
[...]Public sector demand is only scarce, ergo-variable, non sustainable in the medium term and driven by the fierce political necessities of the electoral cycle.[...] Private demand for conventional services and products might be the only passing left for Greek Social Cooperative Enterprises, inevitably leading to isomorphism with regular enterprises and traditional rural or civic cooperatives."
Read more on the challenges and the key actors of social innovation in the full contribution here.