The interest in social innovation has grown over the last 10 years but it’s not new – since the dawn of time individuals, families and communities, governments, and companies have developed innovative solutions to tackle social problems. What is new is the energy being invested into taking our social innovation abilities to a higher level. Around the world there are initiatives to connect innovators, share knowledge of what works, find ways to attract resources, and develop new partnerships that cross communities and sectors. And what is also new – Governments are starting to recognize that they are a critical partner in scaling proven social innovation.
There is nothing like a crisis to generate action. Even the most optimistic observers accept that Europe faces monumental economic and social challenges. Small or incremental solutions simply don’t cut it. These are the perfect conditions for social innovation: Solutions are needed that transform systems, not just tinker with them. Europe has become a “living lab” for this emerging field by default – it has to urgently experiment with new ideas and processes now. So, when two Commissioners, Johannes Hahn and Laszlo Andor, from the European Commission issue a Guide to Social Innovation*, it’s worth studying.