As social innovations have grown in Europe, this concept has gradually become established in Slovakia as well. At the European level, social innovations have become part of strategic documents, programmes and research projects, and increasingly received greater attention from the governmental, private and non-governmental sectors in Slovakia.
During the last decade, social innovations in Slovakia have primarily belonged to the third sector. Lately, non-profit organizations, civic associations, foundations and think-tanks have been the predominant promoters of social innovations. Thematically, the prevailing social innovation projects mainly focus on local development, education, social inclusion and active citizenship.
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 Slovakia.
The voices of Slovakia:
In 2011, Ľubomír Billý from Centire provided an overview of social innovation in Slovakia, which at this time, was a term relatively unknown in the Slovak context. It was frequently known as social affairs, or the third sector, than social innovation and it addressed the following:
"Undoubtedly, the biggest social problem in Slovakia is persistently high unemployment currently oscillating around 14%. In addition to economic consequences on the national level, this also leads to social and psychological consequences and loss of work habits for the unemployed. Inappropriate education and inability to gain experience and find a job after studying leads to high unemployment rates among the younger generation. In addition to the economic impact of the structural and economic reforms, the economic crisis in recent years pushed unemployment in several regions to over 30%, creating a vicious cycle of poverty and hunger.
The second major long-term challenge is the Roma issue. Malfunctioning integration, lack of understanding and unwillingness on both sides leads to a gradually escalating problem. It is possible that its importance will grow, as shown by the regional elections and the success of extremist politics rhetoric built against the Roma ethnicity. According to the latest estimates, the number of Roma population is around 400,000 with a forecasted increase to 600,000 by 2030."
In 2016, Ľubomír Billý provided an update on social innovation in Slovakia, noting the concept had become more established in the country. He also noted the shift of third-sector to the variety of actors paying interest to social innovation:
"The public sector has the greatest opportunities to foster social innovation expansion, in particular through the instruments implemented in the social policy framework. Slowly but surely, the public sector has started grasping the social innovation concept. Based on defining documents at the European level, four operational programs contain references to social innovation as a useful tool for addressing current challenges and problems. Projects carried-out within the operational programmes Research and Innovation, Human Resources, Effective public sector and Regional Operational Programme should incorporate elements of social innovation in their implementation. Even academia is paying more attention to social innovation as various departments have addressed theoretical and practical aspects of social innovation in several research projects. However, it is also worth mentioning the initiative of individuals or groups of students who bring innovative projects of their own volition, or at the various grants and competitions. A large proportion of new ideas come from the start-up matrix as well. Social innovation projects have been fostered through various hubs, incubator/accelerator programmes or Impact Academy – providing training for social entrepreneurs."
The contribution also provides examples of projects:
- Batsuit and Remote Assistant - technological solution for the blind
- The BUDDY project prepares children in children’s home for independence through experiential learning.
- Ranking among pioneer events helping to promote social innovation are the Social Innovation Workshop organized by the consulting company Centire and Social Innovators Map developed by the Pontis Foundation and Social Impacts Awards.