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Contenido archivado el 2024-05-28

Transnational Network for Social Innovation Incubation

Final Report Summary - TRANSITION (Transnational Network for Social Innovation Incubation)

Executive Summary:
TRANSITION - Transnational Network for Social Innovation Incubation - was funded by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme and ran from September 2013 to February 2016. Like its sister project BENISI, it aimed to identify and support 300 social innovators and build a European Network of Social Innovation Incubators (ESIIN).

The TRANSITION network included six ‘Scaling Centres’, based in different European countries, which provided incubation support to social innovators, and three further organisations - European Business Innovation Centre Network (EBN), Social Innovation Exchange, and Nesta.

Consortium partners built a community of trust, based on mutual learning, shared experiences, practices and tools, now able to facilitate and support local, regional, national and international scaling of social innovation in Europe. By creating a network that brought together the expertise of innovation-based incubators and specialists in social innovation, TRANSITION aimed to experiment with new ways to scale up social innovations.

To guide our work, we produced a common support framework called the ‘Social Innovation Journey’. Beyond that, Scaling Centres developed their own support offers that often shared some common features. In total, we supported 315 social innovations.
Most of the social innovators who took part were at an early stage and were supported by their local Scaling Centre. For those ready to internationalise, we also pioneered a ‘Transnational Startup Lab’. Here, nine social innovators were co-incubated by their local Scaling Centre and by the TRANSITION partner in London or the Basque Country.

This experimenting approach, brought to a deeper knowledge of all partners and a diffusion of ideas amongst them. This resulted in a group sharing a common vision on social innovation incubation, relying on a shared mechanism of mutual learning and exchange, and constantly connected among them.

Broad pan-European dissemination to the relevant practitioners helped the engagement of other SI initiatives and projects. TRANSITION project since the very beginning has worked as an open, inclusive platform aiming to attract the attention of and scout possible cooperation with all actors and stakeholders in the wider European Social Innovation Ecosystem. In this specific context, partners targeted other incubation practitioners in their own regions, in Europe and beyond, in order to prepare the ground for the first European Social Innovation Incubation Network.
Project Context and Objectives:
Post-crisis Europe faces some complex challenges, from tackling high unemployment to meeting the needs of an ageing population, addressing climate change and responding to increasing numbers of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants.
It’s widely believed that addressing these challenges means working differently: we need new services, policies, products, institutions, organisations and relationships between different sectors of society. In short, we need social innovation.
Partly as a result of European Commission support, there is now an ever more visible community of social entrepreneurs and innovators in many European countries, backed by a growing number of networks, research projects, support organisations and investors.
But although social innovation is a Europe-wide phenomenon, there appears to be less activity in some countries than in others - or at least, in some countries, social innovation is less well known and less visible. And across the continent, there are still few social innovations that reach large numbers of people, described in the sector as ‘going to scale’.
If we want to generate more innovations, and help more of them grow, there’s a tried-and-tested approach: innovation-based incubation. Could innovation-based incubators and social innovation specialists work together to help social innovations in Europe scale up?

TRANSITION aimed to scale up at least 300 social innovations in Europe. TRANSITION considered a wide range of social innovations, from prompts to social ventures. Building up a European network of Social Innovation Incubation stakeholders, TRANSITION identified and tested a range of tools and methodologies for supporting social incubation across Europe. It started at grass root levels, from the field experience of the six scaling centres, and tested several scaling approaches across regions and sectors, and supported the social innovation community through dedicated events, communication and learning and dissemination tools.

Partners in the TRANSITION initiative include the European BIC Network (Belgium), The Young Foundation (UK), Social Innovation Park (Spain), Paris Region Entreprises (France), WestBIC (Ireland), Politecnico di Milano (Italy), Nesta (UK), Social Innovation Exchange (UK), New Factory (FI) which was later replaced by Social Entrepreneurs Agency (Portugal).

The scaling up approach developed by TRANSITION has been a journey into social innovation incubation: an evolving sequence of actions, activities and tools tested by the TRANSITION Scaling Centres with the aim of helping incubators and practitioners develop their own paths of scaling social innovation. The TRANSITION Social Innovation Journey (SIJ) is an 'action format for social innovation incubation' developed by partners to meet some commonly identified needs for the social innovators – access to networking, clarifying their value proposition, access to finance, business modelling, etc. – while fitting into the different demographic situations, capacities and skill sets involved in delivering support.

315 social innovations have been going through the SIJ with the support of TRANSITION Scaling Centres.

Moreover a selection of 9 social innovations entered the Transnational Start-Up Lab (TSL), a scaling support designed by the TRANSITION programme to identify and accelerate the implementation of high-potential social innovations in another location. The TSL offered social innovators dedicated support services from 'smart take-off' to 'soft landing' to ensure that scaling into new contexts are introduced to the country’s business practices, culture and opportunities more effectively.

Moreover TRANSITION partners run a set of inclusive dissemination, training and networking activities targeting other incubation practitioners in their own regions, in Europe and beyond, in order to prepare the ground for the first European Social Innovation Incubation Network (

Therefore ESIIN partnership has been established to create a multilevel learning community where experimenting with methodologies, tools and process to better support, empower, incubate and scale up social innovation across Europe.
ESIIN is intended as a system that 1) shares a common understanding of what social innovation and social innovation incubation are; 2) monitors, shares, promotes incubation best practices at different levels (regional and European), in order to create synergies among its members; 3) advocates the role of incubators in enhancing social innovation and social impact in Europe; 4) explores new tools and channels for accelerating and transnationally scaling social innovation in Europe.

Project Results:
TRANSITION supported 315 social innovations (this includes seven social innovators supported by New Factory - our Finnish partner - which left the programme after the first year). Most of these received support from their local Scaling Centre. While each Scaling Centre offered different types of support, they reflected common shared principles. These principles became clearer as the project went on, and were articulated in a model that we called ‘the Social Innovation Journey’. Nine social innovators were helped to prototype their models in another country (either the UK or Spain) through the Transnational Startup Lab.

Our in-depth qualitative interviews showed that social innovators were attracted to TRANSITION for a variety of reasons. Some had a desire to better understand how their idea could generate greater social impact; others were drawn to the programme’s European profile and network (and the opportunity it might present to replicate their solution in other European locations); for others it was the programme’s merging of coaching, training and monitoring, or that their idea was too early stage to fit in with conventional support programmes.

The majority of social innovators applying to TRANSITION were at an early stage in developing their projects, although some were more developed:
> 51% just had an idea or a prototype when they applied for support from TRANSITION, while 49% were already up and running with their innovation.
> The majority were delivering on a small geographical scale - or not at all - but 12% were already operating internationally.
> Over half of social innovators (51%) had been in operation for 12 months or less and only 16% for two years or more.

There was some variation between the Scaling Centres in the types of social innovators they worked with. Paris Region Entreprises and WestBIC worked with more social innovators who were already at the ‘sustaining’ or ‘scaling’ stages - having got an idea up and running. In contrast, all of the social innovators that Social Entrepreneurs Agency supported were at an idea or prototype stage when they joined the programme.

Looking at the models of organisation of the social innovations we worked with, we observe:
38% new social venture startup
23% volunteer project, initiative or campaign
19% small or medium sized enterprise (SME) expansion
10% innovation within an existing organisation
6% partnership of organisations

Looking at the top eight sectors of activity, these are:
70% Education and training
60% Craftsmanship and local production
25% Culture and heritage
15% Transport and mobility
15% Energy
12% Fashion and design
10% Food
10% Health and wellbeing

When asked what type of social impact they were trying to create, social innovators were most likely to say:
1. Education and training (63%)
2. Employment (61%)
3. Social inclusion and cultural integration (51%)

TRANSITION aimed to support social innovations in Europe to scale up. As a consortium, our understanding of these two concepts evolved, deepened and in some ways changed, over the course of the project.

Social Innovation
Social innovation has probably always happened, but the term ‘social innovation’ is quite new. Because of this, there’s still no consensus about how it should be defined. TRANSITION adopted a definition developed by a European Commission-funded research project, TEPSIE:
“Social innovations are new solutions (ideas, products, services, models, markets, processes etc.) that simultaneously meet a social need (more effectively than existing solutions) and lead to new or improved capabilities and relationships and better use of assets and resources.”
If we unpick this definition, we can see it has several different elements. These each informed TRANSITION’s approach:
-Inclusive processes, inclusive outcomes: As well as meeting social needs, social innovation should improve ‘capabilities and relationships’. This might mean involving target beneficiaries in developing and running initiatives, or in ownership or governance.
-Entrepreneurship... and beyond: ‘New solutions’ can come from anywhere. Many of the social innovators we worked with were early-stage entrepreneurs developing new ventures, like SpareSpace. But TRANSITION also supported ‘intrapreneurs’ in large organisations, community members delivering informal projects, and established SMEs looking to scale up.
-Broad interpretation of ‘social need’: TRANSITION supported innovations that tackled a wide range of issues, as the chart below shows.

Some innovators that TRANSITION supported were very strongly motivated by their social objectives, while others were closer to mainstream entrepreneurs - commercially driven, while delivering products or services that addressed a social need. Most TRANSITION Scaling Centres felt that social innovation was not well understood in their country and that while many people might be already be doing it, they may not recognise it or identify with the term. So Scaling Centres often worked with innovators to help them recognise and develop the social impact potential within their innovation.

Like ‘social innovation’, ‘scaling’ means different things to different people. In TRANSITION, we started by talking about scaling as a stage in the development of a social innovation. The ‘Social Innovation Spiral’ model implies that scaling takes place after an innovation has reached a certain stage of maturity.
Our stated intention at the start was to focus on supporting social innovations that were at least at ‘proposals’ stage. This meant that social innovators had to at least have a concrete idea for an innovation, but did not need to be delivering anything as yet. (In practice, many of the social innovators we worked with were at the ‘prompt’ stage.) This was in contrast to our sister project BENISI, which aimed to engage social innovations whose ideas already had proof of concept.

TRANSITION also had a focus on geographical scaling. As we wrote in our original project bid: “By scaling, we mean the act of taking a social innovation that has had local or national success, and ... enabl[ing] it to move to the next step; local SIs can be scaled nationally or regionally, national SIs can be scaled regionally or internationally.”
Nevertheless, we noted from the start that there are many possible routes to scale. For example, scaling can mean growing an organisation, but can also be achieved by working with others to replicate innovations in new places, or by spreading practices through influence and dissemination.

As the project went on, we began to view scaling as an ongoing process rather than simply a stage in the development of a social innovation. In our Learning Methodology document, produced around six months into the project, we proposed adapting and adopting a definition of scaling developed by Duke University: “increasing the impact of a social innovation to better match the magnitude of the social need or problem it seeks to address.”
This implied that innovations can be described as ‘scaling’ at any point in their lifetime, if they are working to increase their impact. At the same time, we acknowledged that there is a particular phase of development during which identifying and pursuing strategies for growing impact becomes the innovators’ main focus.
This dual focus was partly pragmatic. If we were going to work with social innovators from the ideas stage onwards, it was unlikely we would help many of them achieve significant geographical reach in the timescale of the project. However, we could still help them make steps towards increasing their impact.
Yet by considering scaling as a process rather than a stage of development, we also anticipated some other key points that became clearer as the project went on. For a start, scaling isn’t a linear process. When social innovators try to grow their ideas, they often have to move back several steps to find a delivery model, or a business model that will work at scale. Social needs are not stable, and so a social innovation may need to build in 'self-reflective' processes to ensure they revisit the appropriateness of their idea at meeting this need. Further, for social innovation, the process of scaling is often as important as the outcome. If social innovation is about building people’s capacity and improving social relationships, then the way in which growth is achieved is important in itself.

Finally, we noted that geographical scale isn’t a very helpful concept for all social innovations – for example those operating through online models. Meanwhile, international scale doesn’t always mean innovations have replicated across borders – it could reflect the business model of the innovating organisations. For example, Lygo, supported by Paris Region Entreprises, is a fair trade company based in France, with suppliers and beneficiaries in other countries.

We recognised from the start that the six Scaling Centres brought different skills, competencies and experience to TRANSITION. The project therefore aimed to create a ‘standard framework’ for support, but not to deliver a ‘standard service’. Nevertheless, our initial assumption was that each Scaling Centre would work to a ‘Common Curriculum’ - and developing this was an early task for the project.
The Common Curriculum emerged as a relatively loose set of principles describing common phases of support (selection, pre-incubation and incubation), activities that Scaling Centres could carry out as part of each phase and a suggested curriculum covering four key areas: team assessment (e.g. assessing skill and will of innovators); social impact (e.g. developing value propositions); product and service design; and sustainability/expansion. It formed the basis of the ‘Social Innovation Journey’, developed later in the project.

Once the Scaling Centres began to deliver support to social innovators, the variations in their approaches became clearer. For example:
> Paris Region Entreprises, The Young Foundation and POLIMI Desis Lab selected and supported a cohort of social innovators who moved through the programme as a group, while WestBIC and Social Innovation Park selected social innovators on a rolling basis.
> POLIMI Desis Lab, The Young Foundation and Paris Region Entreprises structured their programme around a series of workshops while Social Innovation Park and WestBIC offered tailored advice to each social innovator.
> Only Social Innovation Park provided physical incubation space to its first ‘cohort’ – Young Foundation offered this, but it wasn’t taken up.
> Paris Region Entreprises, The Young Foundation and POLIMI Desis Lab offered support with a clear start and end point, while Social Innovation Park and WestBIC supported social innovators for an undetermined period. WestBIC’s principle was to work with ‘clients for life’.

The Scaling Centres also experimented with different ways of delivering core TRANSITION activities. For example, WestBIC, POLIMI Desis Lab and The Young Foundation used their ‘Spark Session’ events to raise awareness of the programme (as anticipated in the original bid), but Paris Region Entreprises used it as a launch event, after having selected participants.
Although each support offer looked quite different, we noticed two main approaches emerging.
We called these ‘learning programmes’ and ‘tailored advice and connections’.
> Learning programmes have a clear start and end point and are designed to support a cohort of social innovators at the early stages of innovation and idea development. They include group workshops that use tools or models to help guide learning around key aspects of the Social Innovation Journey. Some learning programmes offer optional one-to-one mentoring or coaching.
> In the tailored advice and connections model, Scaling Centres work with social innovators on a one-to-one basis, offering advice and guidance and connections to other forms of support. Support is less structured and time-bound, and so applications for support can occur on a rolling basis and continue for a longer period.

Over time, became more ‘blended’, with learning programmes incorporating more networking and elements of tailored support (e.g. through coaching or mentoring), and tailored advice models building in some group activities and peer support.
The Transnational Startup Lab is an example of a ‘blended’ model. The Transnational Startup Lab (TSL) was piloted by TRANSITION in London and the Basque Country, with the aim of helping social innovators scale transnationally. Social innovators who were ready and willing to explore scaling into either the Basque Country or the UK were invited to apply. Nine successful social innovators (out of 25 applicants) attended a two or three day workshop hosted by the TRANSITION ‘partner’ incubator in London or Bilbao, while at the same time receiving support from the Scaling Centre in their home country.
The aim of the Transnational Startup Lab was to help social innovators prototype their project in a new country. The transnational partner incubators designed programmes of group activities to help participants think about how their idea would work in a new context (such as carrying out a social business model canvas). They also helped to match social innovators with appropriate local contacts and connections, met and networked with other European social innovators, and were offered some individualised follow-on coaching.

For the reasons outlined above, we recognised early in the project’s lifetime that the Social Innovation Spiral model above had limitations from the perspective of our project. Over the course of TRANSITION, we developed our own model, the Social Innovation Journey.
This was inspired by The Young Foundation’s programme The Accelerator and shaped by POLIMI Desis Lab, who used their design expertise to create the journey.

This model helps to show that:
> Developing a social innovation requires a focus on who, what, how and why: building the ‘skill and will’ of people and teams doing the work; being clear on what you’re trying to do; identifying a viable business model; and coming up with a feasible prototype -while all the time focusing on the social impact you’re trying to create. (Social innovators don’t necessarily move through these in order, though, and they can work on several at the same time.)
> Social innovators often need to work and re-work their ideas and business models to make their work sustainable and to find ways to scale up. We represent this with our ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ circles - social innovators might go round the outer circle several times, before moving to the inner.
> As you make progress, you get closer to the core: The Social Innovation Journey starts on the outside of the circle and moves inwards. That’s because as social innovators progress, they get closer to the ‘core’ of their mission - that is, creating social impact. They gain a better understanding of the social needs they’re trying to address. They refine their innovation and their delivery model. They have more evidence that their solution works.

We developed the Social Innovation Journey over the duration of the project, so the model both influenced, and was influenced by, the support that TRANSITION delivered. Some of the Scaling Centres’ support offers reflected the Social Innovation Journey more explicitly than others.
Nevertheless, the model helps to show that by the end of the project, TRANSITION partners had reached a shared understanding of the ways in which social innovations develop.

By the end of the project we had started to use this model to inform the ways we structure and talk about social innovation support - most notably in the way we produced and structured the Social Innovation Journey Toolbox, a collection of tools to help social innovators with various aspects of developing their projects.
The tools aim to help social innovators progress through the Social Innovation Journey, enhance their social impact and tackle complex issues in development and scaling. They are organised according to the five main stages of the Social Innovation Journey. Tools can be adapted to different contexts and different social innovations: most of them can be used by both early- and late-stage innovations.
Each tool is introduced by a brief description that explains what it is, when to use it, how it works and when to use it. A simplified template visualizes the sequence of actions and tasks and guides the social innovators to complete them.
The full toolbox can be found at

TRANSITION was different from the several FP7 EC funded research projects exploring social innovation from various angles; it approached social innovation from a practical, rather than a theoretical perspective.
The ambitious goal of identifying and supporting 300 social innovations in a period of 30 months, stimulated partners to find the right processes, methods and tools to achieve these targets, and to achieve them together.

By creating a network that brought together the expertise of innovation-based incubators and specialists in social innovation, TRANSITION aimed to experiment with new ways to scale up social innovations. This experimenting approach, brought to a deeper knowledge of all partners and a diffusion of ideas amongst them. This resulted in a group sharing a common vision on social innovation incubation, relying on a shared mechanism of mutual learning and exchange, and constantly connected among them.
In order to achieve this degree of collaboration and contamination, it took us more than 2 years as this networking process requires time and dedication. TRANSITION partners have been considering different options to make this network sustainable beyond the grant and expand it beyond the consortium dimension.

We strongly believe that in order to generate an impact in Europe and let social innovation flourish, we need to empower and provide more and better support to those enablers which will then work together with European innovators to design, develop, implement, scale innovative solutions to the societal challenges identified in Horizon 2020 and society’s needs.
This is the rationale behind ESIIN, to create a forum for incubators, accelerators, fab-labs, co-working spaces: a forum made of online and offline opportunities, to better connect, learn, exchange, cooperate. In one word: networking.

ESIIN represents the natural evolution of TRANSITION project, and in order to make it a sustainable and effective tool for social innovation incubation, partners have been defining the objectives, the role and the offer of the network through a co-creative and open process. The result of this process is the ESIIN partnership, which has at its core TRANSITION partners and a group of incubators and incubation stakeholders that expressed a clear interest in the initiative.
Potential Impact:
Based on the feedback collected from the social innovators who participated into TRANSITION regional programmes, on the whole, the support was quite highly rated.
On average, social innovators gave support a rating of 3.4 out of five when asked how well support was tailored to their needs.
And they rated support 3.4 out of five in terms of how far it met their expectations.
83% said they recommend the programme to early stage social innovators, while 71% said they would recommend it to social innovators that are mature or already operational.
Most social innovators said that TRANSITION made a difference: 69% said the advice they received made a positive difference to their social innovation.

We found that incubation support helped social innovators in the following ways:

1.Giving social innovators the confidence to think big
TRANSITION proved to be instrumental in helping a number of social innovators consider the longer term impact and ambitions of their idea. Before joining the programme, some social innovators reported that they were unclear what concepts such as ‘scaling’ meant. Having the dedicated time and space, and conceptual tools to develop their idea resulted in positive outcomes for a number of social innovators, and helped clarify their vision for how it could grow.
Our follow-on survey found that 33% of respondents agreed that TRANSITION had given them the confidence to pursue their idea further. This point was reflected in interviews. For instance, one WestBIC-supported social innovator, explained that the one-to-one coaching support he received encouraged him to continue with his idea after a major competitor announced they were introducing a free-to-use product into the Irish market, which he thought would kill prospects for his idea.

2.New mindsets and a greater awareness of social problems
Each of the Scaling Centres worked to create opportunities for social innovators to receive feedback on their idea, either directly from Scaling Centre staff or peers (for instance, through project reviews or facilitated discussions). Social innovators were also encouraged to reflect on the vision of their social innovation, and in certain cases attended workshops or events that introduced them to new social challenges and helped them reframe how their idea might address additional social needs.
Our evidence suggests that participation on the programme helped a number of social innovators change their mindset or gain greater awareness of new social challenges. For example, hearing directly about the struggles migrants are facing in Europe from Migration Hub encouraged one social innovator to consider how her social innovation supporting families to relocate to rural regions in Portugal might also be used to support migrant integration into rural areas.
While certain sessions and tools (such as the Social Innovation Scanner ) were intended to encourage social innovators to reframe their idea from different perspectives, other aspects of support (such as the Co-Design Tool) were intended to bring the social innovators closer to their users or beneficiaries. Connected to this, we found that TRANSITION had concrete outcomes for the social innovators in terms of their knowledge of the sector or market. For example, 57% of follow-on survey respondents rated support in understanding the needs of beneficiaries (or potential beneficiaries) as ‘good’ or ‘very good’.

3.Putting new ideas into practice
One of the explicit aims of TRANSITION’s support was to introduce social innovators to new ideas, tools or methods that they could put into practice. To help capture if TRANSITION had created value in this way, in the follow-on survey we asked social innovators to review their Scaling Centre’s knowledge of key concepts and methodologies. Of those that responded, 89% rated their Scaling Centre as ‘good’ or ‘very good’ in terms of their knowledge of key concepts and methodologies.
Likewise, our interviews with social innovators highlighted a number of instances where new concepts, tools or methods proved to be useful in the growth or sustainability of their idea. Examples ranged from support identifying the social innovation’s Minimum Viable Product or using the design workshop to rethink a social innovation’s marketing strategy.

4.Refining social business strategy/model and testing solutions
When asked, at the start of the programme, what types of support they were looking for, 38% of social innovators said they wanted support with business planning, and 39% wanted support with business management.
Business model development and value proposition refinement were common features of TRANSITION’s support, and were typically delivered as a workshop working on the Social Business Model Canvas tool or as more tailored business model development coaching and advice. Our interviews and follow-on surveys suggested that TRANSITION support was valuable in this regard.
Of those who responded to our follow-on survey, support in ‘clarifying your offer/value proposition’ was amongst the highest rated types of support received, with 69% rating this support as either ‘good’ or ‘very good’. 60% of follow-on survey respondents rated the business model development support they received as ‘good’ or ‘very good’.
In the follow-on survey, social innovators were asked how far they agreed with some statements intended to illustrate where advice from Scaling Centres had resulted in changes to the overall idea. 32% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, ‘I modified my core idea or operating model / strategy substantially as a result of programme participation’. More interesting was social innovators’ response to a related statement, ‘Advice given to modify or refine aspects of my idea have positively impacted my social innovation overall’. Here, 81% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed.
Various stories also emerged during our interviews with social innovators that pointed to the value the programme had delivered in helping the social innovators rethink or redefine their business strategy or model. For example:
> School Raising (TRANSITION Milano) adjusted its business model to focus more on tool sharing than fundraising.
> Sustainable Reference (TRANSITION Basque Country) was advised to broaden its target clients from larger public and private entities to SMEs. Doing so has enabled the company to develop a more dynamic scaling strategy - as the commissioning and purchasing process has turned out to be faster with smaller and medium sized entities (whether public or private).

5.Connections partnerships and network development
Network development and meeting other social innovators were rated highly as sought after types of support at baseline.
One way that TRANSITION supported social innovators to form new connections, partnerships and network development was through introductions to mentors and coaches. Some later became associates and advisors:
> Humanitarian Design Bureau (TRANSITION Paris Region) still works with its TRANSITION mentor, who advises the founder on matters such as intellectual property, contract law and employment law.
> SASPASS (TRANSITION Paris Region) had a mentor through TRANSITION who went on to join its advisory board. The mentor also introduced the founder to another contact and together they are working on a joint concept to develop and sell more ergonomically-designed wheelchairs on his website.

TRANSITION also helped build strategic connections and partnerships with other social innovators. Over the duration of the project, group workshops and peer support emerged as an increasingly valuable aspect of support. International peer networking opportunities (such as at the Transnational Startup Lab workshops) resulted in some interesting examples of social innovator collaborations and exchanges - where social innovators have partnered with others to share useful contacts, or blend their ideas. For example:
> Emakume Ekin (TRANSITION Basque Country), a social innovation group working on female entrepreneurship programmes, decided to refocus its transnational scaling strategy from the UK to Italy in the short term as a result of exchanging relevant contacts with Twletteratura (TRANSITION Milano) after meeting at the Transnational Startup Lab in London.
> Both Transnational Startup Lab workshops resulted in a number of collaborations and partnerships between different social innovators. This resulted in some working together on joint bid applications and client proposals, and in others considering how their projects might complement one another to create new types of social benefits.

In the follow-on surveys, Scaling Centres received positive ratings for support meeting other social innovators (70% of social innovators responding rated their Scaling Centre as ‘good’ or ‘very good’), while 81% rated their Scaling Centre as ‘good’ or ‘very good’ in terms of how well connected they were to networks of social innovators. Based on the examples above, it is perhaps unsurprising that when asked an open question on what they found most useful about TRANSITION, social innovators often said it was meeting and/or learning from other social innovators.

Overall, the evidence suggests that social innovators have progressed - more of the social innovators now consider themselves to be at a ‘prototypes’ and ‘scaling’ stages compared to when they first joined the programme.

A number of examples highlight the way in which the support given helped social innovators in making their work more financially sustainable and growing their scale of operations. For example:
> Triest Press secured a funding to expand its service offering following scaling support provided by WestBIC, and has hired one extra person.
> Lygo (TRANSITION Paris Region) became profitable for the first time in the year following support and was able to hire an additional person. Its African operations have scaled up, and Lygo is now producing higher volumes of products because of progress made in its business and client relationship strategy. Lygo has also received a social enterprise award.
> RHS Homecare (TRANSITION Ireland West) secured a funding to scale its social innovation regionally. Its operations will now expand into two new counties (Sligo and Leitrim), and the organisation will hire three additional staff members as a result.

From the outset, supporting social innovators to scale geographically was a key objective of the project. Of those responding to the follow-on survey, 34% reported an increase in their geographic reach.
The Transnational Startup Lab was specifically designed to help social innovators scale their innovations into new countries. Our experience of running the Transnational Startup Lab demonstrated that for social innovators, there are two factors in particular which give rise to them choosing to scale transnationally - or not: relationships and risk.
The scaling story of Simplon, for instance - a social enterprise (‘entreprise solidaire d’utilité sociale’) that provides intensive training in digital skills and entrepreneurship for young people and those looking to change career - shows how these sometime competing factors informed the innovation’s scaling strategy. Simplon’s scaling story demonstrates that TRANSITION’s timeline was not always in sync with that of the social innovations - and that social innovators will sometimes favour scaling their impact ‘deeper’ before scaling ‘out’.

Scaling does not always mean growth in geographical reach. Deepening social impact, and improved capacity to meet a social need also emerged as important outcomes of support. For instance, 43% of follow-on survey respondents reported an increase to their social impact, and 43% reported an increase in the number of people benefitting from their idea. Responses to our follow-on survey also confirm that the programme created value by supporting social innovators to measure and define their social impact thereby supporting them to get closer to identifying their ‘core’.
Nevertheless, the evidence also supported our theory that scaling is not a one-way journey. When we looked at the scaling stages of social innovators at the time of baseline and follow-on survey, we can see that change can happen in both ‘directions’.

Given the short timescale of the programme, these findings are not particularly surprising. Our qualitative research highlighted that even social innovators who considered themselves ready to scale up often had to completely re-think their business models or work on their product-market fit, so sometimes had to move ‘backwards’ in order to move ‘forwards’. Meanwhile, those at ‘prompts’, ‘proposals’ and ‘prototypes’ stages may not have many (or even any) beneficiaries or create any tangible social impact during the course of TRANSITION support. Nevertheless, by helping them to move through the Social Innovation Journey, we hope to have positioned many of them to create social impact in future.

As key part of its objectives, TRANSITION project deployed a set of dissemination online and off line actions aimed at sharing, promoting and communicating its activities, its achievements and its protagonists.

TRANSITION dissemination tools & activities
> TRANSITION Logo & graphic identity
> TRANSITION Business Cards and postcards (+5000 distributed)
> TRANSITION website (28000+ page views)
> TRANSITION Twitter account @TRANSITIONeu (685+ followers)
> TRANSITION eMags (4 issues to TRANSITION e-Mags presenting tools and methods for incubating social innovation)
> TRANSITION News and Newsletters (6 Newsletters and 100+ posts on the website)
> TRANSITION videos (20+ videos about the project and its beneficiaries)
> TRANSITION events (12 Spark sessions; 1 Mid term event; 1 Network Development event; 1 International Training and Financing Event; 1 Final conference; several policy workshops and international conferences; several regional events)
> TRANSITION webinar
> TRANSITION publications (TRANSITION Travelers; Social Innovation Incubation; The SIJ Toolbox)
> TRANSITION-BENISI joint publication
> ESIIN platform (
> ESIIN Twitter account @ESIINeu (80+ followers)

TRANSITION has taught us some useful lessons on how incubation practices can be made more valuable for social innovators.

While the consortium entered the project with a good foundational knowledge about the kinds of support and methods social innovators might need when looking to scale, we found that aspects of support soon emerged that created other types of value for social innovators.

> Social innovation incubation is about scaling social impact
It’s important that incubators are clear on what it is they’re looking to achieve. For TRANSITION, we looked to grow the social impact of an innovation - not just the organisation itself. For some of the Scaling Centres with a strong history of supporting businesses to scale, TRANSITION presented an opportunity to work with SMEs and other entities that might not ordinarily consider themselves ‘social innovators’ to explore how they might become more ‘social’.
This underlines the importance of using incubation methods and tools that focus specifically on drawing out an idea’s social benefits. The TRANSITION SIJ Toolbox includes a selection of tools that have been designed with this specific goal in mind.

> Quantity versus intensity
Compared with some models of incubation and acceleration, the support we provided in TRANSITION was quite light touch. (Startup accelerator programmes, for example, often last three to six months and combine taught curriculum, workshops, intensive coaching, mentoring and pitch days as well as offering coworking space to a small cohort (e.g. 10-15) incubatees.)
This was largely a result of TRANSITION’s ambitious targets for the number of social innovators supported. While our evidence suggests TRANSITION provided value to social innovators in a number of ways, some of the Scaling Centres questioned whether it may have more useful to provide deeper support to a smaller number of social innovators.

> Scaling transnationally
The Transnational Startup Lab was envisaged as a mechanism by which social innovations could rapidly prototype in a new location. Perhaps here more than anywhere the scaling routes pursued demonstrate the unique considerations social innovators have to make. Social innovators were far more likely to want to scale by building partnerships rather than growing their organisations into new countries. Social innovators spoke about the risks associated with trying to work between two countries and considered finding the ‘right’ partner a necessary precondition to de-risk scaling transnationally (i.e. a local actor who not only shared the social innovator’s ‘vision’ but who possessed good contextual knowledge of key stakeholders or the country’s tax and legal systems, for instance).
That said, we also came to recognise that various other factors influence whether or not a social innovator decides to pursue or pause the decision to scale transnationally. For instance, one social innovator who was rapidly scaling nationally in France decided to hold off scaling in the UK because they felt it was too risky to divide energy and resources trying to scale in both locations at once, and preferred to focus on national scaling first. The fact that social innovators’ scaling timelines and the project’s timelines were not always going to be in sync was something we didn’t fully acknowledge from the start.

> Context matters
While social innovators in different TRANSITION locations were often working in the same sectors, their innovations nevertheless differed substantially in response to particular local needs or contextual conditions. In our literature review of transnational scaling, we noted that social innovations are more likely to scale transnationally if they are “compatible with what already exists” in the new location.
In practice, we found that the scalability of some ideas will be affected by the fact that some are very context-specific. For instance, during the first assessment panel for the Transnational Startup Lab workshop, a UK-based social innovation which offers entrepreneurialism training sessions for secondary schools students was not selected for the Bilbao workshops because the schools there are highly centralised and do not have the same budgetary authority as UK schools to purchase education products directly. While there was perhaps scope to rethink the idea in light of the location, in its current form, the idea wouldn’t work in Spain.
Meanwhile, some of our partners (for example, Social Entrepreneurs Agency in Portugal) found that, for many of the people they were engaging with, social innovation was still a relatively new concept. Social innovation’s varying visibility from one location to the next required some flexibility on the part of Scaling Centres, who at times needed to adapt different aspects of the programme (such as the Spark Sessions) to account for the fact that there may not have been a good pipeline of social innovators locally.
Nevertheless, although there were contextual differences, we were able to reach a common understanding of how social innovations develop. Correspondingly, many of the incubation tools and methods we developed or refined (such as the Social Business Model Canvas) were useful in multiple contexts, and could be modified or adapted to local context if needed.

> Social innovators benefit from strong networks
The project helped to show that one of the most useful things we could do was to help social innovators build their networks - with peers, funders, customers, partners, collaborators, advisers and others.
Peer support emerged as being particularly important. Our initial expectation was that the most useful way to do this would be by clustering social innovators around the types of sector they were working in. However, this proved not to be such a priority for social innovators themselves. Rather, social innovators repeatedly reported the value in meeting and learning from social innovators sometimes working on very different challenges to themselves. It was often this exposure to new challenges and ideas that inspired social innovators to consider different applications of their initial idea, or to form alliances with others that created new kinds of social benefit.
Beyond peer networks, creating networking platforms and opportunities to connect social innovators with other external networks was also of great value to social innovators. By leveraging their networks, a number of the Scaling Centres were able to connect social innovators with funders, investors, public entities or technical experts.

> Networks of incubators are valuable, too
Working in a consortium made up of very diverse partners - each with their own skill sets, competencies and experience - may have been challenging, even risky. However, in the end, this proved to be a unique strength of the project. In part, this was because of the consortium’s commitment and willingness to iteratively develop a common conceptual framework about how social innovation develops. The SIJ Toolbox illustrates the added value of the Scaling Centres’ diverse backgrounds. For example, the Co-Design Planning tool reflects POLIMI Desis Lab’s expertise in design skills, while the One-Page Summary and Pitch Deck tools reflect WestBIC’s experience supporting entrepreneurs to make the case to potential investors.
The project highlighted the value of creating networks of incubators as a way of sharing tools and practices and building capacity. It also showed the potential value in incubators working together to support social innovators, both transnationally and locally. The Transnational Startup Lab showed how incubators in different countries can work together to can help social innovators scale, replicate or share their ideas across borders. Meanwhile, at a local level, Scaling Centres came to recognise that single organisations are rarely able to provide effective support for social innovations right from inception to scale - showing the need to work with other organisations to build a strong supportive ecosystem for social innovation.

> Innovative projects require flexibility to respond to learning
Like any experimental project, we found certain aspects went well, while others could have been done better. For example, feedback shows that social innovators wanted more support than we provided in access to finance, and we could have better managed social innovators’ expectations here.
The nature of the project also meant that some important elements emerged during the project that we had not fully anticipated at the start. For example, over time we became increasingly aware of the importance of peer support, and in particular peer feedback on project ideas. We were able to respond to this to an extent - some Scaling Centres, for example, offered peer project reviews - but nearly a quarter of follow-on survey respondents indicated that they had not received any peer support.
This underlines the need for experimental projects to build in flexibility - and resource - to respond to emerging needs, lessons and opportunities. We were able to refocus or redesign some of the activities where we found they weren’t quite working (e.g. the initial plan to host Pitching Days proved to be at odds with a lot of the social innovators’ early stage of development).

We also managed to respond to some opportunities that arose during the project. For example, we co-delivered our mid-term event with three other EC-funded social innovation projects (BENISI, TEPSIE and SI-DRIVE) and preparing a joint publication, Scaling Social Innovation: Experiences and first success stories of the two European networks of incubators for social innovation with our sister project BENISI.
The Learning Workshops were a useful platform for sharing amongst partners, and gave partners a chance to reflect on their experiences while the programme was still under way, while also considering lessons emerging from research with social innovators. However, while the Learning Workshops generated several ideas for improvements to the programme, implementing these proved challenging given the need for partners to focus on delivery of support to social innovators and meeting TRANSITION’s targets.

The TRANSITION experience offers several insights that could inform future incubation initiatives, including the European Social Innovation Incubation Network (ESIIN, which is carrying forward the network developed through TRANSITION), work streams within the new Horizon 2020 project ‘Social Innovation Community’, and any further new programmes funded by the European Commission or other organisations.

1.Similar future incubation programmes should take into account general lessons that have emerged from TRANSITION:
a. Offering incubation support to a smaller number of social innovators over a longer period to allow for more in-depth learning about the effectiveness of different incubation tools and methods.
b. Focusing on supporting social innovators to increase and deepen their social impact, rather than prioritising geographic scaling specifically.
c. Greater openness about the risks and failure that goes with leading experimental innovation programmes - not all social innovations will succeed, for instance. Seeking to learn from and assess such risk and failure would result in greater transparency and awareness of the challenges and opportunities there are for social innovations to scale impact in Europe and beyond.
d. Incorporating a research and learning component into the programme’s core structure to ensure network activities are monitored, inform ongoing evidence-based decision-making, and encourage wider dissemination of learning.
e. Building in flexibility as a core feature, to enable project partners to redesign or refocus activities where needed and to respond to emergent findings.
f. Prioritising activities that enable incubators to learn from and share experiences with one another from the earliest programme phases - and reflecting this in the resourcing and cost of programmes.

2.To build on the TRANSITION experience, there are several new directions that future incubation initiatives and programmes could explore. These include:
a. Building capacity of mainstream business incubators to support social innovation, by promoting shared tools and approaches, skills exchange with social innovation specialists and peer learning. The European Commission should consider how this could be incentivised, e.g. through seed funding; awards/recognition schemes for incubators; or incorporating indicators around support for social innovation into incubator reporting frameworks.
b. Purposely working to develop incubation capacity in regions/countries where there is currently less support for social innovation.
c. Promoting networking for incubators both at a regional level (to create better ecosystems for support) and transnationally, to promote scaling, replication and diffusion of social innovators across borders. This should build in opportunities for incubators to interact and practically learn from one another.
d. Creating links with other networking initiatives (such as the Social Innovation Community project) to ensure that efforts build on, rather than duplicate, one another.

3. Beyond incubation, there are opportunities for the Commission, Member states and regional and local authorities to use social innovation more systematically to address Europe’s most pressing challenges. Social innovation is much broader than social enterprise - and can take many forms which build on the rich diversity of the social economy. Beyond creating supportive environments for social innovations to flourish, we believe there are opportunities for public sector entities to work with social innovators to co-produce solutions to common challenge. This would require:
a. More systematic engagement with diverse social innovation actors and intermediaries (like incubators) at EU, national, regional and local levels to co-create policies, products and services that aim to tackle Europe’s most pressing challenges.
b. Commission-funded programmes, such as Social Innovation Community aim to create opportunities for different social innovation actors to engage and connect with policymakers. Involving social innovation more closely in tackling public challenges would require creating open spaces for social innovation actors to connect and engage with not only policymakers, but governments, municipalities, European institutions, academics, corporates and others to define and develop genuinely impactful solutions together.
c. Creating a supportive social innovation ecosystem in this manner will itself require exploring new ways of working. Instruments such as challenge-based procurement should be considered as a means of spurring radical social innovation.

List of Websites: @TRANSITIONeu @ESIINeu