From October 24th to 25th, 2017, the Final Conference of the EU 7th Framework funded project SI-DRIVE was held successfully in Brussels, Belgium: “Social Innovation – Research and Policy of the Future: towards a comprehensive innovation policy” brought together over 250 practitioners, researchers and policy makers from 44 countries in the field of social innovation and policy.
Speakers underlined that the different and increasingly sound concepts of social innovation enable researchers to better understand the field in all its complexity. With SI-DRIVE’s global and comprehensive mapping of socially innovative cases as a starting point, presenters and panelists challenged the community to take the next steps to deepen its knowledge on social innovation along the dimensions of policy fields, societal sectors and world regions.
In line with the Social Innovation Community (SIC) project, the co-host of the event, participants called for a stronger collaboration of academics, practitioners and policy makers, suggesting to involve practitioners in research projects from the very beginning.
The impact of social innovation was another key issue of the conference. With more and more consolidated networks and their diverging rationales, it remains to be seen how social innovation can take effect on an even larger scale on the one hand, and appreciate and support small-scale solutions for distinct challenges on the other.
One central aspect of the debate was the capability of social innovation to tackle critical challenges. Here, the SI-DRIVE consortium insisted that the potential of the whole society needs to be unlocked within a more comprehensive innovation strategy in order to improve the quality of life and create more opportunities and pathways to future wellbeing.
The conference also discussed concrete recommendations with regard to an appropriate innovation policy of the future. The SI-DRIVE Policy Declaration sets a framework for uncovering the potential of social innovations and their capacity to enable systemic social change, through new governance approaches and a better understanding and design of the eco-systems in which social innovations unfold. Moreover, a more intensive involvement of universities and research centres in social innovations was called for, as well as the development of a European Social Innovation Agency which also supports the development of competences needed to reach the goals described.
The conference was hosted by SI-DRIVE – Social Innovation – Driving Force of Social Change, a project under the Horizon 2020 Programme, SIC – Social Innovation Community, the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts and NET4SOCIETY, a network of National Contact Points in Horizon 2020.
“Social Innovation – Driving Force of Social Change”, in short SI-DRIVE, is a research project aimed at extending knowledge about social innovation (SI) in three major directions:
- Integrating theories and research methodologies to advance understanding of SI leading to a comprehensive new paradigm of innovation.
- Undertaking European and global mapping of SI, thereby addressing different social, economic, cultural, historical and religious contexts in eight major world regions.
- Ensuring relevance for policy makers and practitioners through in-depth analyses and case studies in seven policy fields, with cross European and world region comparisons, foresight and policy round tables.
SI-DRIVE involves 15 partners from 12 EU Member States and 10 from other parts of the world.
The 25 partners of SI-DRIVE have mapped over 1.000 cases of social innovation all over the world and selected over 80 cases for an in-depth case study analysis. Our website is: www.si-drive.eu
In cooperation and with the exchange of other EU-cofinanced research projects, SI-DRIVE project built up and dealt with a novel theoretical framework with encompasses the complexity of social innovations and its embeddedness in the view to the variety of social innovation. It comprises:
- a comprehensive definition of SI as “new social practices” opening the view to the variety of social innovation,
- five key dimensions (concepts and understandings, addressed societal needs and challenges, resources, capabilities and constraints, process dynamics, governance, networks and actors) operationalising the social innovation definition affecting the potential of social innovations, their scope, and their impact,
- a wide array of actors with differing roles, changing across different levels and during the social innovation lifecycle,
- empowerment and human resources as key for social innovations development and diffusion,
- interrelation between different levels of action: the macro (policy fields), meso (practice fields) and micro level (projects, initiatives),
- complex and dynamic social innovation ecosystems including new roles for public policy and government, the economy and civil society, and science and research,
- mechanisms of social change (learning, variation, selection, conflict, competition, cooperation, tension and adaption, diffusion, planning and institutionalisation of change as essential) as essential criteria for the classification of social innovation.