In Romania, social innovation and social economy are relatively new concepts, mainly embedded in NGO sector and in civil society. Social innovations are new ideas or ways of working that meet social needs more effectively than existing traditional approaches and they are carried out in Romania by social economy organizations such as associations, foundations, credit unions, and cooperatives. They address pressing concerns around child care, social services, work integration of disabled people, rural community development, formal and nonformal education, waste management, health-care services and more.
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 Romania.
The voices of Romania:
In 2011, Ancuta Vamesu, Coordinator Social Economy and Cristina Barna, Assoc. Prof. PhD., Expert, Institute of Social Economy (Civil Society Development Foundation) prepared a report of how social innovation looked like in Romania at that time. Their report includes a timeline of the history of social innovation in the country:
"Looking back in Romanian history, we want to begin with an outstanding crowd source investment applied by Literary Society ‘Romanian Athenaeum’ in 1885 (at initiative of Constantin Esarcu, Vasile Alexandrescu Urechea, Nicolae Kretzulescu). Not having the necessary funds for building the Athenaeum – a modern concert hall, and lacking state support or involvement, this Literary Society lanched a national public subscription campaign, in what is known today as a ‘crowd source investment’, a recognized social innovation approach. In this way the Romanian Athenaeum was finalized in 1888 by the architect Albert Galleron, and ….restored in 2000 – 2004! Two times ‘Give a Leu for Athenaeum’ initiative! Two times, Romanian people solved a problem through social innovation!
Romania has a long tradition in social economy, unfortunately interrupted by the communist period, which affected the essence of volunteering and cooperative movement, and created in this way some barriers that we need to face and to struggle to overcome them even nowadays."
In 2015, Ruxandra Creosteanu of Babele, an open innovation platform supporting social entrepreneurs, provided us with an update of how social innovation in Romania looked like at the time. Her contribution provided examples of social business initiatives in Romania including:
- Pink Lime, a circular economy project (cradle-to-cradle) producing hammocks and bean bags. Pink Lime was among the finalists of EIB Social Innovation Tournament
- Concordia, an authorized protected unit which aims the social reintegration of children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. They have taken a social entrepreneurship approach, creating a bakery, a coffee space and shops selling products created by Concordia apprentices.
- Village life, a project promoting sustainable rural tourism in Romania, they are winners fo Nesst award
You can read her full contribution here.