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Landscape Mapping: Public Policy and Social Innovation

Sophie Reynolds and Madeleine Gabriel, Nesta


The overall objective of WP5 - Policy, as set out in the SIC grant agreement, is to increase understanding about how social innovation can contribute to meeting the policy objectives of the European Union and its Member States, and increase the relevance and effectiveness of public policy related to social innovation. The WP’s specific objectives are:

  1. To increase policymakers' awareness, understanding and uptake of effective public policy approaches to support social innovation and build skills and capacity of social innovation networks to engage more effectively with policymakers;

  2. To advocate for policy change in key areas that will enable social innovation to be better supported, within and across member states;

  3. To regularly review the impact of social innovation on meeting EU policy objectives, providing clear evidence and recommendations on how greater impact can be achieved.

Aims of this task:

Nesta conducted a ‘Situational Analysis’, a stocktaking exercise to explore the interaction of public policy (particularly at an EU level) and social innovation to date, and to set the groundwork for subsequent tasks in WP5. Our intention was to review reports and other materials produced to date, relevant to social innovation policy at a general level and specific to the different SIC networks, and to synthesise findings into concise outputs that would be accessible to policymakers and social innovation practitioners which could be widely disseminated. Specifically, the task aimed to:

  1. Get a good understanding of current state of play regarding EU policy relevant to SI generally, and SIC’s networks

  2. Identify gaps, issues, tensions, policy challenges etc. that might form priorities for future WP5 Policy tasks (e.g. identifying where to target our future activities in order to make most impact)

  3. Inform design of later WP5 Policy tasks

  4. Generate findings and content to feed into first ‘state of the union’ report (T5.3)


In consultation with the other seven SIC partners involved in WP5, task leaders Nesta developed a template for conducting the policy review/situational analysis. The template prompted partners to assess and understand policy needs, opportunities, tensions and gaps, and to highlight good policy examples related to:

  1. The SIC networks that partners are facilitating

  2. Broader policy to support social innovation at a European level (including EC-

    funded social innnovation programmes)

  3. National/regional policy frameworks relating to social innovation network focuses

    or social innovation at a broader level

Where partners were facilitating an SIC network, they were asked to focus on this network in conducting the review. Partners who were not facilitating SIC networks were asked to take a broader view of social innovation policy at an EU level. Each partner was also asked to research and create a rough draft of two national or regional examples of social innovation policy.

Partners completed the templates and returned them to the task leader. Each was then peer reviewed by another WP partner. The completed templates were not intended to be written up as publishable prose, or even to include a significant level of analysis; the aim was instead to use them as a data gathering tool, clearly sourced and referenced, so that future WP5 activities (including, in particular, the preparation of D5.3, the first ‘state of the union’ report) could easily draw on this initial scan and re-purpose the findings, potentially for a range of different outputs.

Nesta also conducted meetings with EC staff from DG-RTD, DG-REGIO, DG-GROW and JRC in order to explore EC policymakers’ interests and needs, to inform the design and focus of outputs.


The stocktaking exercise showed that in practice, there is considerable variation in the extent to which different SIC networks have expressed ‘policy needs’ to date. In some areas, for example public sector innovation, the social economy and digital social innovation, where existing networks are well established and/or mapping and policy work has already been funded by the EC, policy 'needs' are fairly well established and clear ‘policy asks’ have often

been formulated. In other areas where networks are only just starting to emerge and formalise, such as inclusive development, there are fewer examples of policy needs/asks clearly related to that specific network. At the same time, the review suggested that the types of policies that support or inhibit social innovation are similar across many of the network areas, even while some networks (like digital social innovation) also have some distinctive needs.

T5.1 was useful in informing WP5’s ongoing strategy. Rather directing future tasks to policy analysis (such as benchmarking the state of social innovation policy across a number of EU countries), the review suggested that partners’ time over the remainder of the project will be most effectively used by focusing on changing the ways that policymakers and social innovation practitioners work together. The landscape mapping highlighted new policy models or approaches, such as public sector hackathons and problem-based procurement, which point to the value of policymakers and social innovation practitioners working together in new ways. In synthesising the findings, this led to the development of a theoretical framework - ‘policies for and as social innovation’ - which unpacked the role policymakers could play, not just supporting social innovation through relevant policy instruments, but also by leveraging social innovation approaches. Examples of the latter include taking a more human-centred design approach to incorporate user insights in the policy development process, or building partnerships with practitioners to address particular policy challenges (as is the case with Mobilearn in Sweden).

This has informed the development of subsequent deliverables in WP5. The first ‘state of the union’ report (D5.3), for example, will take a more practice-oriented approach by introducing policymakers to a range of ‘principles for socially innovative policy’. T5.4, the ‘policy master classes’, which were first envisaged more as 'training' sessions, will now be designed as collaborative workshops that support policymakers to work with social innovators in tackling public policy challenges. Over the series of workshops, we will develop and refine the workshop format (based around the 'seven principles of socially innovative policymaking'), along with tools and prompt sheets to run sessions within these workshops, which will later be codified so that they can be used by others. This workshop format and accompanying tools will in turn form a resource for the Policy Portal (T5.5), which will sit within Learning Repository being developed in WP4.

Description of D5.1 outputs

Based on the materials gathered through Task 5.1 and the insights from policymakers and partners, eight short documents were produced. These aim to synthesise findings from the

situational analysis in a simple and engaging way, and form the first of a series of policy- related outputs to be produced over the course of the SIC project. They include three documents that set out the idea of policy as/for social innovation, four case study examples (one in the form of an interview), and one tool for policymakers to use:

  1. Introducing the SIC policy framework: Policies for/as social innovation (Graphic) Based on the insights gathered as part of T5.1, this designed output visually describes the relationship of policymaking for social innovation and policymaking as a socially innovative process.

  2. Policy for social innovation: Five ways policy can support social innovation (short briefing paper).

  3. The Seven Principles of Socially Innovative Policymaking (short briefing paper).

  4. Policy prompt sheet: applying the seven principles of social innovation to policy (Worksheet).

  5. Regional example 1: ‘Community Lab, Emilia Romagna Region: Using openness and collaboration to better respond to complex social challenges’.

  6. Regional example 2: ‘La 27e Région works with policymakers to create a culture that supports social innovation in French regional government’.

  7. Regional example 3: ‘e-Estonia: how Estonia’s national digital strategy could open up more opportunities for digital social innovation in the region’.

  8. Interview: Mobilearn – the digital platform supporting migrant integration.


The outputs developed as part of the D5.1 Landscape Mapping exercise have been used to develop a series of policy outputs which can be practically useful to three broad audience groups: 1) Those who are new to social innovation policy, from any sector/role; 2) Social innovation practitioners (this will include but is not limited to network actors) who could work with policymakers to help achieve policy objectives; and 3) Policymakers/ public decisionmakers who could benefit from understanding how they can better support social innovation or make better use of social innovation policy principles.

As part of their ongoing network engagement activities, WP partners, particularly network facilitators, have been requested to continue developing content (e.g. blogs, interviews) which illustrates the value of social innovators creating effective partnerships with policymakers and public authorities to make change, and there will be a consortium-wide effort to continually update the Policy Portal (T5.5) with engaging and up-to-date content.

To support the dissemination of these and later multimedia outputs, WP leaders Nesta are devising a dissemination plan to engage with policymakers across Europe who could make use of these outputs. Nesta has already taken first steps towards engaging with different stakeholder groups, such as:

  1. Exploring opportunities to integrate aspects of the social innovation policy principles into the Royal College of Art’s Design for Policy modules (London, UK)

  2. Held a meeting with DG REGIO and agreed to circulate D5.1 outputs to INTERREG national points of contact, to introduce them to the work and invite them to share social innovation policy success stories via the SIC website

  3. Promoting D5.1 outputs through related social marketing channels: e.g. the public sector innovation newsletter – Lab Notes; a partnership between Nesta (UK) , SIX (UK), MindLab (Denmark), MaRS Solutions Lab (Canada), and GovLab (US); Linking to the content from the Design For Europe website and encouraging partners to help promote the content from their organisations‘ social media accounts