Social innovation can be understood as innovative ideas which simultaneously are good for society and enhance society’s capacity to act. Through the experimentation work package of SIC, we are working with local partners, using the tools and methods of social innovation to co-create solutions to collectively defined local issues and challenges. We recruited 5 diverse host centres in 4 European countries – Croatia (x2), Estonia, Italy and Norway – who we trained on the tools and methods of the SIC Handbook.
Each host centre used these tools to co-define the specific local challenges for which they wanted to work to find solutions. These ranged from how to better include refugees to the workforce (Oslo) to how to mobilise cultural creative professionals to improve their city (Zagreb) and from how to prevent young people leaving a city to work elsewhere (Parnu) to how the complex needs of vulnerable people can better be met (Turin). Following research into these challenges, each host centre held collaborative events between January-March 2017. These 3-day events were tailored to suit the specific local context and challenges, so the host centres were given space to design the structure of the events themselves.
Each host centre creatively selected, adapted and employed different tools from the SIC Handbook during their events, working collaboratively with relevant local stakeholders and facilitators. It was crucial for the host centres to engage with key actors in order to develop meaningful and sustainable solutions, including the wider social innovation community, local stakeholder and unusual suspects – across the 5 centres, these included public employees, civil servants, young professionals, private businesses and refugees, all with varying degrees of familiarity with the world of social innovation.
Feedback from attendees at all 5 events was very positive; those with little prior experience of social innovation were highly engaged with the new process. In Zagreb, for example, it was noticed that the events increased respect and trust among stakeholders, strengthening and building social capital. In Pärnu, the participants were totally engaged with the challenge as most of them were young people directly affected by the issue of not finding opportunities to stay in their city. The process was so positively received in Oslo that the host centre there are planning to continue organising and hosting similar events around different topics and challenges.
Having 5 diverse host centres in 4 different European countries going through the experimentation process at the same time has provided a valuable learning opportunity for all those involved. In February, we held a learning exchange session with all the centres and support partners where they could share ideas and suggestions with each other. Another similar event is planned in Zurich in May. Over the next few months, the centres will continue to be supported to refine and strengthen the solutions they have developed so far. Our overall aim is to ensure that these solutions are shared widely with social innovators across Europe, with opportunities for replicating and scaling.