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Creative solutions to Europe’s challenges through social innovation

Social innovations are inventive responses that provide solutions to unmet social problems and needs, nurture social relationships and build new collaborations. These innovations can be products, services or models that address societal, business and governmental needs more effectively.

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Social innovations address societal objectives such as improving the welfare of individuals or communities, supporting climate action, or serving biodiversity and environmental protection and remediation. They can be triggered by the desire to give a new purpose to a closed factory, or the urgency to answer to the needs of vulnerable people, and engage local communities, public authorities, businesses and academia – the ‘Quadruple Helix’ – in the co-creation of solutions. As such, social innovation is essential to tackle the increasingly complex and interrelated challenges we face today. Yet these solutions often arise from grassroots endeavours where the impact is limited to small, discrete communities. Greater coordination and visibility are needed to achieve critical mass for these ideas and facilitate their widespread adoption. The European Commission works actively to encourage market uptake of innovative solutions and stimulate employment. Building on the launch of the Innovation Union in 2010 and the 2013 Social Investment Package, the Commission facilitates the inducement, uptake and scaling-up of social innovation solutions. The main objectives in this space are promoting social innovation as a source of growth and jobs, sharing information about social innovation in Europe, supporting innovative entrepreneurs and mobilising investors and public organisations. To achieve this, the Commission supports initiatives such as networking events to allow organisations across Europe to learn from each other, provides support to grow the innovation ecosystem through private investment and incubators, organises the annual European Social Innovation Competition to raise awareness of the people and projects making an impact in this space, disseminates evidence on the impact of these efforts, and provides funding through a range of programmes, including the EU Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI), Horizon 2020, Horizon Europe and the SME Instrument. This Results Pack highlights 10 projects supported through Horizon 2020 that illustrate the value and broad scope of social innovation. These selected projects give examples of novel approaches and new forms of cooperation to empower civil society and bring social impact, often providing a previously unexplored alternative to conventional approaches in dealing with these challenges. Social innovation can happen in many areas, as evidenced by the projects in this Pack. It can focus on challenges related to both the urban and rural environments. It fosters new responses by using digital tools for example to overcome bureaucratic barriers for migrants and for citizens. It applies new approaches to promote the impacts of culture on social cohesion and it can induce positive changes in ways of thinking and acting on social issues and various social communities. Together, these projects showcase the broad potential of social innovation to tackle societal problems, and the importance of scaling up successful projects. Addressing unmet needs in society, DESIGNSCAPES helped to launch 100 innovative design-led ideas to improve social and business enterprises, while CO3 and ESCF help turn social innovations into practical solutions. DE4A has devised new technical solutions to enable the digital single market across the EU and boost economic activity, and both PoliRural and RURALIZATION seek to find ways to reverse the decline of rural communities by building attractive economic ecosystems. The Pack also showcases the value of social innovation for culture and integration: VHH is bringing archive material of the Holocaust to light using cutting-edge digitisation tools, while MEMEX uses digital storytelling to foster social inclusion of marginalised communities. WELCOME is part of a cluster of projects helping migrants to integrate into their host countries in Europe, and MESOC is developing tools to quantitatively measure the impact of culture and cultural policies.