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Social Innovation in Spain addresses a considerable number of pressing social issues, such as high unemployment, education and economic, social and cultural integration of the immigrant population. The difficulties of government in supporting a welfare state with wide social coverage, and an increasing demand from civil society for participation and co-creation of common solutions has shifted the balance of action. Spain has seen its largest contributions from actors within the social and solidarity economy, higher education institutions, and citizen-led initiatives. 

Social innovation has entered in the public agenda tightly related to public innovation policies and new initiatives to foster a social open innovation model. Regionally, the Basque Country is an early adopter of the term “social innovation” with its incorporation into the Strategic Plan of regional government action. 


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 Spain.

The voices from Spain:

In 2011, SIS in collaboration with Josep Miró and Patricia Saez provided an introductory overview of what social innovation looked like in Spain at that time, particularly exploring the social innovation projects coming out of civil society:

"In 2010, several new initiatives have emerged such as the Madrid hub, Upsocial - which is a network of social entrepreneurs, and SIS—the community of innovators and social entrepreneurs in Barcelona. Also, there has been a recent increase in blogs about social innovation/entrepreneurship. Further, an extensive set of social entrepreneurs in different areas are working across sectors, with particular emphasis on the integration of groups with special difficulties, projects to improve and protect the environment, renewable energy, access to funding through P2P structures, and so on. 

All these initiatives and projects are independent of the public initiative, and are part of a movement of new civic attitudes toward co-responsibility and the resolution of common problems. The opportunity lies on being aware of these changes, empowering these different groups and people, connecting them, and providing a fertile environment in which to develop and create a lively community of social innovation in the country."

Read more from this contribution, including the role of government and the networks of cooperative enterprises and the social economy. SIS presentation is also available here.

In 2015, Rocío Nogales from the EMES Network and Sebastià Riutort from University of Barcelona provided an update on recent developments related to social innovation in Spain to further the contributions made by SIS. This update touches on some of the challenges within the field: 

"In the case of Spain, various elements of the ecosystem are in place so the potential for a thriving and diverse social innovation community does exist. However, two major barriers are the fact that many actors do not recognize themselves as part of such community and that social innovation as a concept has not permeated related spheres of activity (be it the traditional social economy or more recent ones such as the collaborative economy). In a country with a long social economy tradition including well-articulated sectoral federations and regional umbrella organizations as well as a thriving solidarity economy movement a double-movement strategy is required: on the one hand, raising awareness and engaging newcomers to the field of social innovation while on the other, activating and connecting extant players in the related fields of the social and solidarity economy."

The contribution also looks at how the profile of social innovation has been raised through EU-funded research projects like WILCO and the DSI project. Click here to read more examples of organisations and projects in Spain.

Basque Country

In 2015, Gotzon Bernaola, Goizalde Atxutegi and Iker Atxa from Innobasque provided a summary on how social innovation looks like in the Basque Country. The OECD described Innobasque as leading partner to boost the work on social innovation and foster collaborative actions and joint research within the region, and this is the main reason why Innobasque promoted the creation of the Basque Social Innovation (BSI) platform in 2013. 

"New challenges needed new responses, and social innovation in the Basque Country is seen as an opportunity to build a socio-economic strategy to address the social challenges in a sustainable way (economically, socially and environmentally) creating local transformations but working in a global network (“glocal” view). Therefore, Social Innovation in Basque Country is understood as an asset, rooted in our values, identity and community sense, from which we can start to design “the second transformation."

[...]The BSI is a node or experimental platform working on Social Innovation in the Basque Country, consisting of more than 20 social innovation agents. The Basque Social Innovation is the first consortium for social innovation created at regional level in Europe. Its scope is to generate transformation and empowerment processes from an approach based on 3 levels -people, organizations and society- to make social innovation a competitiveness and cohesion factor in Basque Country."

Read the full country summary for the Basque Country, including its history, more information on BSI and examples of key projects and organisations.


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