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Reflections on social innovation in Europe

In 2011, there was little support for the people running projects improving the lives of other Europeans. There was no ecosystem to support social innovation, and little support for the innovators themselves. Little was known about how to grow or finance innovatiove projects, processes and programmes and there was no platform or place with examples, stories and case studies of other people involved in this work. 

Social Innovation Europe was established as a pilot project - a way to test if there was appetite for a community of practicioners in Europe. The strength, engagment and activity of the network which was established during the first year of the SIE project, made it clear that not only was the pilot successful, but that there was a real need and appetite to keep the community alive beyond the two year of the pilot. Because of this the Social Innovation Europe was extended to ensure that social innovators in Europe had a place to meet, to exchange ideas, to get inspiration and to stay up to date on the movements in Europe.

Today, the Social Innovation Europe community is strong and active. SIE has dedicated country partners in most of the EU countries, a wide cross sectorial network and it is recognised as the one-stop-shop for updates on who is doing what and where when it comes to social innovation in Europe.

After three years of running Social Innovation Europe, the time has come to have a look at the state of the field: What has changed in the last three years since SIE was set up? How has SIE helped in the everyday work of the country partners and innovators who use SIE? How has the field of Social Innovation evolved in different countries? And what do social innovators across Europe need in the future?

At the start of SIE we asked all our country partners to write about the state of the field in their own countries. Three years later SIE is following up on this with core partners around Europe to get an update of the state of the field in each country. Who are the players, the funders and the supporters in the field today? How do the public sector, the private sector, the academia and the third sector engage in the field of social innovation? Is there more awareness about social innovation?

To read what our partners said have a look at the quotes from:

Kristina Mänd (Network of Estonian Nonprofit Organisations NENO) in Estonia

Ioannis Nasioulas (Scientific Director, Social Economy Institute) in Greece

Nicolas Hazard (Vice Chairman, Groupe SOS, President, Le Comptoir de l'Innovation) in France

Paolo Nardi (Secretary-General, Compagnia delle Opere CDO) in Italy

Dr Igor Calzada (PostDoctoral Research Fellow, University of Oxford and Ikerbasque, Basque Science Foundation) in Spain

Marco Traversi (CEO, Project Ahead) in Italy

Anne Sorensen (Social+) in Denmark

SIE would like to acknowledge the effort of the several individuals, working within and outsode of the European Commission who have in the recent years played a key role in promoting social innovation in Europe.

In particular, we pay tribute to the late SIX Chair Diogo Vasconcelos who was a forefather in the field both in Europe and globally and was passionately about seeing social innovation included in the European Commission agenda. 

Agnes Hubert who will retire this year has also been a tireless campaigner of social innovation and one of its key drivers inside the European Commission. SIE is looking forward to read the latest study on social innovation in Europe which will be ready summer of 2014, a welcome update of Empowering People, Driving Change - Social Innovation in the European Union (2011). An exclusive interview with Agnes Hubert will also be available on the SIE website shortly.