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Innovative Social Investment: Strengthening communities in Europe (InnoSI)

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - InnoSI (Innovative Social Investment: Strengthening communities in Europe (InnoSI))

Reporting period: 2016-05-01 to 2017-10-31

European welfare states were designed to offer support against 20th Century social risks. In the current and ongoing climate of political, economic and social transition EU Member States need to adopt distinctive social welfare reforms to improve their resilience and prepare for future social risks. At the heart of the Social Investment approach to welfare lies the idea that welfare states must invest in human capital rather in passive cash transfers. The emphasis is on investments in people over the life course to enhance their productive capacities and foster longer-term economic development. More recently, it can be argued that Social Investment strategies offer a policy framework with which to realise the social rights captured in the EU Pillar of Social Rights.

Innovative Social Investment: Strengthening Communities in Europe (INNOSI) asks how to design robust Social Investment strategies which can deal with emerging socio-economic challenges but that meet the needs of individuals and communities. Its aims were as follows:

Aim 1: Identify and evaluate existing innovative and strategic approaches to social welfare reform which utilise social innovation at a regional and local level.
Aim 2: For those socially innovative and strategic approaches to welfare reform identified during Aim 1, we will explore the social and psychological impact of welfare reform on individuals and communities:
Aim 3: For those interventions considered in Aim 2 to be successful, we seek to identify ways of implementing effective innovative and strategic approaches to welfare reform (including social financing) and establish pathways to impact for knowledge created during the project.

To meet these aims our project combines:
• National-level and local level research on Social Investment policies.
• Case studies of regional and local Social Investment examples from across Europe that take account of regional and local realities of Social Investment approaches and from which we identify effective policy and practice. 2028
• Direct engagement with the beneficiaries of Social Investment policies so that their voices permeate all aspects of the project.
• Innovative approaches to generating policy impact from the research that we undertake including a network of ‘knowledge brokers’ and a ‘foresight’ programme. 2028
Headline results from the project are as follows.
• Our analysis of welfare expenditure across Europe confirms to some extent the interpretation of a ‘quiet revolution’ in welfare reform, with a stable European welfare system proceeding in a slow but progressive way as characterized by Professor Hemerijck in his influential 2015 paper. However, we find no clear trends towards more Social Investment spending over recent years..
• Our analysis suggests that the public sector can influence social outcomes through appropriate Social Investment, in particular, to enhance labour market outcomes of the young. More generally, there is mixed evidence, depending on the region considered, that fiscal policies, such as public sector consumption and employment can influence social outcomes.
• Our economic analysis indicates clearly that the regional dimension matters in public Social Investment.
• Many reforms that might loosely be termed Social Investment were led entirely led by public sector actors, with limited social economy or private sector engagement. Our case studies illustrated the potential that the social economy brings to designing and delivering Social Investment. However, after the increasing support for the social economy before the crisis, our research suggests a stagnation or even decreasing role for the social economy in the policy fields and countries where we undertook research – this may be as a result of fiscal consolidation.
• Our case studies revealed few and quite limited examples of innovation in funding Social Investment programmes. Examples we identified include the use of outcomes-based commissioning models in the UK; a few examples of innovative ways of securing additional private financing for Social Investment programmes; and the use of cooperatives.
• Reliance on activism, volunteering, and unpaid efforts (e.g. in participation and co-production) is prominent in many case studies. In some cases, non-financial inputs (mainly unpaid work on the part of citizens) are essential to make Social Investment initiatives viable. This is particularly so where social economy partners are able to access local traditions of volunteering.
• Personalised, user-focused services were characteristic across all the case studies. There was a strong sense from providers and users alike that this should replace a one size fits all model that has failed in the past. Different models of personalisation were encountered, ranging from making services more responsive to individual needs to services that were co-created with service users
• Our policy analysis suggests that economic justifications for Social Investment reform appear to weigh more heavily than societal ones. However, our analysis also suggests that the real value of welfare state reforms is not simply economic. It is revealed in the ways in which it changes the lives of people and families – and transforms communities.
This study progresses beyond the state of the art by demonstrating that an understanding of local and regional context is important in explaining how and why Social Investment strategies are or are not implemented. Our economic analysis shows that here are not only strong differences across regions in EU, but inside different countries. Social investment may be most effective, these results suggest, when considered regionally. Our case study analysis demonstrates the richness and variety of local and regional implementation. The case studies suggest that the implementation of Social Investment at the local level is different to that at the national level. This is partly explained by the involvement of value driven social economy organisations. Social justice rather than economic efficiency is typically their motivation. An unexpected finding was the reliance at a local level on activism, volunteering, and unpaid efforts (e.g. in participation and co-production) in implementing socially investive approaches.

Another key advance beyond the state of the art is in the centrality of user voice to our work, both in terms of enriching our understanding of case studies and through stories that illustrate key findings and enhance the impact of our research.
A key innovation in this project was to appoint ‘impact partners’ to work alongside the academic partners. Our impact partners have worked as ‘knowledge intermediaries’ or ‘research brokers’. By the end of the project we had data showing that impact partners had engaged in over 2000 face-to-face meetings, distributed large number of paper documents and emails and had over 12,000 web pages downloaded. In addition we had extensive qualitative evidence exploring how specific interactions had led to policy and practice influence.
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