Social innovation is hot in Europe and is at the spearhead of many policy actions and activities. This is reflected in the funding programmes that place ever greater importance on the social impact of projects and their contribution to bringing about a (social) change in Europe. There are several remarkable social innovation projects in Erasmus+ that prove the power of people to create lasting long change for their fellow citizens and communities. Yet, where does social innovation gain a momentum?
Social innovation is gaining importance in society and in education and training, socially responsible citizenship is being promoted from the very early ages of childhood as a continuous effort throughout life. Education and training take place at every stage from early childhood and move from the initial stages to continuous training, or from formal to informal training levels.
One of the funding programmes in which social innovation has found its place is Europe’s programme for education and training, youth and sport, Erasmus+. The aim of the programme is to contribute to Europe´s 2020 strategy for growth, jobs, social equity and inclusion, in addition to contributing to the wider strategic framework for education and training. The programme tackles various challenges such as reducing unemployment, learning new skills or reducing early school leaving, and social innovation can contribute. This is acknowledged by the increasing number of projects that address social innovation from a wide variety of perspectives and apply different approaches.
This article highlights 8 remarkable projects which use social innovation to tackle a particular challenge or need. They have been selected to represent a wide range of different target groups and needs originating in different countries, with no ambition other than to provide examples for inspiration. Of course, we cannot forget the present project which supports you in becoming a social innovator.
Community social innovators
Hosting Social Innovation aims to emphasise the importance of social innovation and provide specific tools, including a collection of facilitation tools and methods to evoke social innovations, a related online workbook and training courses, to help people implement their ideas and visions. The overall goal is to empower people to take care of their social and ecological environment more actively.
Seniors and social innovation
NEET U aims to re-galvanise experienced and resourceful seniors as NEET brokers to help young people change depressed social situations. Their mission is to mobilise experienced seniors with social and educational potential to help turn around the increase in depressed social situations among young people, with the goal of generating social and educational value from the dynamic interaction between these groups.
Social innovation for youth
Digital social innovation for young people empowers young people in digital social innovation thinking and practices in Europe, by defining a basic educational framework for social innovation training for youth. The project applies different learning approaches such as peer learning, participatory learning, social learning and collaborative learning.
Social innovation, communities and higher education
By co-creating innovative digital storytelling modules with community groups and students, the Common Good First initiative will share the experiences and challenges faced by community projects and identify, showcase and connect community-led social impact projects to each other and to higher education – for the purposes of research, evaluation, learning and teaching, and student engagement.
A curriculum for social innovation incubation
The European Expert in Social Innovation Incubation project defines the curriculum for those professionals dealing with social innovation incubation. It aims to develop both the curriculum and the related training path.
Many of the funded projects focus on social entrepreneurship, another aspect of social innovation, which fits extremely well with the programme. Some of the projects include explicit references to social innovation, while others focus solely on the area of social entrepreneurship.
Social innovation for resilience
The Social Innovation for Resilient Communities (SIRCle) project focuses on providing adult learners with the skills and competencies needed to create social enterprises or change existing workplaces, thus contributing to the resilience of their community and region. It aims to align a love for the planet with the capacity to thrive financially and contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and climate agreement.
Social innovation in schools
Creative Paths for Young Social Entrepreneurs brings together schools from different backgrounds to take stock of the potential that social innovation and entrepreneurship offers for increasing student employability, improving their skills, enhancing their creativity and also to actively involve them in their communities.
Social entrepreneurship for refugees, immigrants and victims of trafficking
SoG-TIM – Social Growth for Trafficking and Immigration trains NGOs and prospective social entrepreneurs, through an incubation e-learning programme, in skills for the development of innovative, technologically advanced, financially sound, globally competitive and actively networked social entrepreneurship ventures, addressing the challenges in immigration and human trafficking.
Becoming a social innovator
And, of course, last but not least, our very own Social Innovation Academy is the first European, fully online management training programme focusing exclusively on social innovation and targeting the managers of companies, NGOs/civil society organisations and intermediaries (hubs, incubators, labs, etc.), as well as (aspiring) social entrepreneurs willing to learn how to set up and run social innovation initiatives to solve the most pressing societal challenges of our time.
Social innovation is increasingly being perceived as the answer to the rising number of European societal challenges. While the European authorities, leading academics, policy experts, business people and activists agree that social innovation is the key to a better future for Europe and the world, it is extremely difficult for professionals to obtain high-quality training on what social innovation actually offers and, more importantly, how it can be done in practice. The Social Innovation Academy is aiming to change this situation in Europe and beyond.
Looking at the 8+1 projects mentioned, it is clear that there are as many projects as aspects of social innovation. These include projects aimed at adults, higher education, schools and youth, but also professionals in general, focusing on social innovation or a specific area of social innovation such as social entrepreneurship.
What all have in common is a link between the projects and their activities and training and education, covering areas from curriculum development and training paths through to online learning content, in line with the educational and training focus of the Erasmus+ funding programme.
Looking at the rise in the number of projects related to social innovation since the launch of the programme, the expectation is for a continued increase in the projects in this field right up to the programme’s finalisation in 2020, and most probably into the follow-up programme that is currently being designed.
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