Despite differences in local circumstances, the social services sector across Europe shares common features and challenges. Tackling these challenges requires innovation, and social service stakeholders can benefit from sharing knowledge, experience and solutions. Towards that end, one of the features of the project 'Innovative social services platform' (INNOSERV) was the establishment of an online portal and forum to enable European social service professionals, academics, policymakers and other stakeholders to interact within and across borders. The project received financial support from the 'Socio-economic sciences and humanities' (SSH) theme of the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). Development of the INNOSERV platform focused on four aspects: innovative social service practices, theoretical discussions, linking empirical evidence to theoretical discourse, and proposing a research agenda. The website includes a news service, a blog, discussion forums, a members' area and information on related projects. In addition to setting up the e-platform, the consortium carried out an extensive literature review to ascertain what innovation means in the European social services sector. Drawing on contacts with 750 service providers, INNOSERV gathered 167 innovative practices in health, education and welfare from 20 European countries. Of these 167, 20 were selected for further exploration, including the production of video presentations. From that point on, much was accomplished. The video material was discussed and international workshops were held. In addition to various dissemination activities over the course of the project, a web-based platform was developed and improved on regularly. A research agenda for stakeholders was drafted and assessed for validity and feasibility. The examination of innovative approaches has assisted in pinpointing further research needed and also enabled the development of new models of social services.
Social services, e-platform, health, education, welfare