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SIMPACT’s first stake holder workshop produces insight into the vulnerable people’s view on driver and barriers for social innovation

SIMPACT held its first stake holder workshop with experts from various fields of social innovation for vulnerable people. The outcomes describe drivers and barriers for social innovation from the stake holders’ perspective.

simpact_stakeholder_workshop As means of involving stake holders in the process of identifying drivers and barriers for social innovations, the EU funded (Grant Agreement No: 613411) research project SIMPACT – “Boosting the Impact of Social Innovation in Europe through Economic Underpinnings” - has held its first stake holder workshop. 12 experts, representing stake holders of vulnerable people in Europe, social innovators, research entities focussed on social innovation and policy makers in the field of social policy, came together on 30th September 2014 in Brussels. The location was the headquarters of SIMPACT partner “Centre for European Policy Studies” (CEPS), Brussels. The aim: contrasting the project’s initial desk research on economic underpinnings of social innovation with the experts’ “hands on” perception.

“Social innovation strongly builds on a co-operative ‘eco-system of social innovation’ that brings together policy makers, research, civil society and economy”, says Dr. Bastian Pelka from Sozialforschungsstelle at Technical University Dortmund. “And this expert workshop brought them all together to identify drivers and barriers for social innovation.” In a half-day workshop, Dr. Christoph Kaletka and Dr. Bastian Pelka from Technical University of Dortmund and Dr. Mehtap Akgüç from CEPS facilitated discussions with experts representing as different organisations as the Red Cross, Eurodiaconia, the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants or the European association of telecentres. They all share the mission to provide aids and empowerment for vulnerable or excluded people and see social innovation as one of their core practices.

The workshop produced a collection of drivers for social innovation which articulates a strong will of “the field” to provide social innovations. This will is driven by the individuals’ perceptions of (either individual or societal) needs. From the stake holders’ perspective, the strongest driver for social innovation is the rise of social needs that is brought by economic crises, governmental fail or human emergencies. Speaking in economic terms, this “market” seems to have both: a supply of innovation and a demand. Both are working as drivers. The preliminary analysis also shows an insight into the functioning of this “market”: a cooperative and communicative environment, including the quadruple helix of actors - seems to build the backbone of social innovation activities. A good connection of these actors and a productive use of communicative infrastructure – quite often via social media – seems to be essential for the growth of an “eco-system of social innovation”.

Barriers are often related to the “eco-system of social innovation”: The professionalization and available resources of (potential) innovators, the knowledge offered by researchers, the communication and cooperation within the eco-systems and conflicts of interest within it. Actual cash-flow was surprisingly rarely mentioned as a barrier – this might be interpreted as the modus vivendi in traditionally low budgeted systems.

After the identification of drivers and barriers of social innovations, the participating experts were invited to combine the identified aspects to construct a grounded scenario. As an exercise of reflection, the workshop did not try to identify a scenario of an “ideal world”, but try to see social innovation from another perspective. The facilitators asked the experts to collect ingredients “how to most effectively block social innovation in society”. Seeing all actors’ activities is this scenario together, the main approach to block social innovation is to stay in each actors’ own logic – in a “silo” of own perceptions. If policy tries to steer in a “safe” way that is not “disturbed” by external influence; economy tries to gain short impact, research avoids the risk of “investing” in this new field and society applies risk-aversion by the reason of saving existing practices, each actor will stay in its inherent logic. The “eco-system of social innovation” hence seems to build on a co-operation of these actors, leaving their own fields of interest.

The results of the workshop will inform other research and development activities of the project and will be documented in a report. The workshop will be repeated twice in the following two years in order to capture the experts’ feedback on later research outcomes.