As we approach the 36th month of the Social Innovation Community project, we must now prepare to say “Goodbye”, “Au revoir” and “Auf Wiedersehen”, as we wrap up things on the project. If the past three years has taught us anything it’s that the process of social innovation requires that we work flexibly, collaboratively, and respond to opportunities as they arise. The Lisbon Declaration of Social Innovation is a perfect example of this. It resulted from SIC seizing the opportunity to run one of our policy workshops at the EC-organised event, Opening Up to A New Era of Social Event. Thanks to the hard work, energy and contributions from SIC partners - and most importantly, you the community, over 350 representatives of the community from over 19 EU countries have played a role in co-producing the vision and 10 policy ideas it sets out. It is a Declaration we can truly say belongs to you the community.
Behind the scenes, SIC partners have also been organising themselves to ensure that more of the Declaration’s policy ideas get taken up by key policymakers. To do this, we organised ourselves into small ‘action teams’ working on priority social innovation policy topics (e.g. shaping the future ESF+ and Horizon Europe programmes, and improving public procurement for social innovation). We organised one-to-one meetings, hosted policy roundtables to bring social innovation practitioners and policymakers together, and produced policy briefings - which were used to feed into European policy consultations. More recently, we have opened conversations with national and regional actors who could play a role in turning the Declaration into concrete actions aimed at better supporting social innovation and better, more inclusive social outcomes.
2019 - a critical year for social innovation policy
While we have seen some promising signals that a number of our policy recommendations may well be realised, thanks to support from the European Commission, the City of Athens and others, our work here feels far from done. 2019 will be a critical year for social innovation policy in Europe. In May the European elections will take place. The kinds of MEPs we the people of Europe elect (and the values they hold) will set the direction of Europe’s future policy agenda, and the extent to which social priorities - and support for social innovation - remain on the table. This is also the period when the current European Commission as we know it will wind down and a new administrative cycle will begin in late Autumn.
In 2018, we received positive support from key decisionmakers like Commissioner Carlos Moedas for the Declaration (who promised “the EU will put more money in social innovation”). To build on this momentum, the SIC partners are committed to continuing supporting the Declaration in a number of ways once the project ends. Some (like Nesta, AEIDL, REVES and SIX) are looking for opportunities to gain wider support for it at all levels. And are looking for funders who can support the policy interest group we are looking to establish, so that we can continue working to engage with and influence policy for our community.
The European social innovation community needs you!
2019 could indeed be the European year of social innovation policy. Ensuring the high-level commitments received so far are translated into real policy change (that reflect our needs, vision and values), will mean that Europe’s social innovation community must mobilise.
Below are three ways you can ensure the Declaration achieves greater policy impact in 2019:
Help us gain wider national and regional support for the #SIDeclaration: You can reach out to your local / city / national officials to let them know about the #SIDeclaration, highlighting how it could make a difference for you.
Petition your MEPs / MEP candidates: Want to ensure social innovation policy remains on the policy agenda for the European Parliament? Consider reaching out to any current or potential MEPs looking to be elected in your jurisdiction. Many may be looking to offer a more hopeful policy vision as part of the campaign pledge - and some of the 10 Declaration proposals may be just the sort of thing they can get behind.
Continue to grow and expand the community: SIC has always recognised the value of strong, connected networks. As a community of hackers, activists, community leaders, civil society actors and others, we know the importance of leveraging this powerful network to forge partnerships with new and different organisations who can support and strengthen our vision. Could you help raise awareness about the Declaration by sharing it with more people in your network? How about telling more people about it at the next conference or meetup you attend?
We would love to hear any ideas you may have about how we can use the Declaration to support the community to make an even bigger social impact in 2019. Get in touch with us at Sophie.Reynolds@nesta.org.uk, and use our Twitter hashtag #SIDeclaration to stay up to date on news.