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The field of social innovation in Norway is still very much at its early stages, with the concept of social entrepreneurship more well known and understood than social innovation.

It is mainly the private and third sector that is developing and driving the field of social innovation forward in Norway; from individual pioneers, networks, social enterprises to larger private sector investors. The government in Norway is not themselves providing many activities that encourage social innovation, however it is the largest funder of social innovation activity.

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 Norway.

The voices from Norway:

In 2015, the Nordic Council of Ministers published a report on social entrepreneurship and social innovation in the Nordic Region.

According to their research, the vast majority of organisations working in the field were set up after 2008. 2009 was the year when social innovation and social entrepreneurship went from being unknown to gain some increased attention. In 2011, the first signs of political interest appeared when a state fund was set up to support social entrepreneurship and innovation in the field of poverty and social exclusion. This fund increased from 5 million NOK to 8 million NOK in 2014. In parallel with increased public sector interest during these years, there was also an increased interest amongst big investors, and so new networks, courses and education on social innovation was developed.

Today, increasing public awareness and activity mark the field of social innovation. More and more enterprises are identifying themselves as social enterprises, and both the public and academic sector, as well some private corporations, have shown increased interest. The current government has said that it will make it easier for social enterprises to be involved in delivery of social services in Norway. However, there are still divergent views on what social innovation and entrepreneurship means, what the role of the public sector should be and how to best support the field.

The full report can be read in English and Norwegian.

In 2015, Europe Tomorrow created a profile on Norway, based on their travels across Europe to identify and test the best social and environmental innovations in order to promote their replication and scaling. In this profile, they identified key actors in the field including:

  • In Oslo, the coworking space Socentral gathers 70 members and residents working in various sectors, ranging from health, education, wellness, or food. Socentral also works as a social entreprise, offering consulting services to the public sector and playing a key intermediary role between the state and its members.
  • Epleslang is a social integration enterprise that combats food waste by selling 100% local and natural apple juice, made from hand-picked apples. Eplesland has hired 28 people with disabilities, avoiding the waste of 80 tons of apples.
  • In the sustainable food sector, Kooperativet is a purchasing coop for local, organic and/or biodynamic products.
  • In the education sector: Bua uses activities and equipment for social entrepreneurs to reduce social inequalities in health for young people and children
  • In Bergen, Baerkraftige liv pâ landâs is an association inspired from the Transition Town movement which supports and fosters the development of a sustainable food system, collaborative economy, clean transportation, and sustainable housing.

Read the full profile on their website here.