Social Innovation has been increasingly 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 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.

We aim to change this situation in Europe and beyond. SOCIA initially brought together five experienced partners from Luxembourg, Greece, Poland, Slovenia and Spain to develop and test the Social Innovation Academy concept. We were later joined by the IMPACT Hub, Sinnergiak Social Innovation (University of the Basque Country).

The Academy aims to be the first European, fully online co-created management training programme focusing exclusively on social innovation.

It targets 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 times.

The Academy is supporte by two E+ projects, with the first one started on September 1st, 2017 and the second one running until August 31st, 2021.


Concrete project objectives were to:

  • Develop the social innovation skills and competence framework, based on research involving both successful and aspiring social innovators
  • Analyse the current social innovation professional training supply and compare it with user learning preferences, identifying gaps
  • Develop and test the Academy’ content and learning environment concept
  • Draw broader recommendations for various stakeholder groups relevant for social innovation VET (aspiring innovators themselves, trainers/experts, intermediaries, policy makers and impact investors)
  • Build a community of stakeholders around the Academy concept to ensure wide engagement and sustainability beyond the project duration

They were further enriched by the following in the second grant period:

  • Bring in expert co-creators through developing a methodology for a true learning content cocreation, launching an international call for experts and selecting the co-creators based on quality

  • Co-create compelling social innovation learning materials with onboarded experts, engaging in a quality publication pipeline

  • Extend the training channels and accessibility by short inspiring ‘teaser’ videos on social innovation, also adapted to hearing or visually impaired

  • Improve training reach and learning experience

  • Grow, diversify, analyse the needs of and actively engage an international online community

  • Bring in more people to the Academy through ambitious dissemination.

In effect, we aim to increase access to and level of the practical social innovation skills and competences of our target audience, raise awareness about the importance of practice-oriented social innovation training in Europe and ingrain it in the activities of various stakeholder groups.


The project has produced six Intellectual Outputs (IOs) in its first grant period, using a variety of robust methodologies:

IO1 Social innovation skill-set and competence framework (mapping; semi-structured interviews; self-assessments; coding and comparative analysis)

– Click on the icon to Download the report on Intellectual Output 1





IO2 Social innovation training handbook (network & desktop research; mapping; expert group; gap analysis)

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IO3 Social Innovation Academy concept & learning environment (User-Centered Design; Robert Mager’s framework for learning objectives; assessment methodology; contents classification and knowledge management through taxonomies, semantics, ontology, descriptors for search and retrieval; prototyping of learning modules and paths using Pelz‘s principles of engagement, presence, and interaction; rapid prototyping of learning environment based on the ‘Checklist for Online Interactive Learning’ and ‘The Components Of A Successful Online Learning Environment’)

– Click on the icon to Download the report on Intellectual Output 3





IO4 Social Innovation Academy validation & testing (focus group or living lab methodologies and individual monitored testing protocols, quantitative (survey) and qualitative (debriefing sessions) feedback collection)

– Click on the icon to Download the report on Intellectual Output 4





IO5 Social Innovation Academy guides (desktop ‘digital storytelling’, ‘pyramid thinking’, editing & layout)

IO6 Online Social Innovation Academy community (stakeholder mapping & salience model, stakeholder engagement, online community, sustainability strategy)

– Click on the icon to Download the report on Intellectual Output 6



 We have also organised related Multiplier Events in each of the five partner countries.

In the second grant period, the following Intellectual Outputs have structured our work:

IO1 Social innovation training co-creators: approach, call and selection

We wanted to harness the positive interest of many social innovation experts such as successful practitioners (including successful innovative social entrepreneurs, corporate social innovators, public sector social innovators, grassroots innovators, innovative community businesses, innovative community builders etc.), academics, researchers, consultants, mentors and coaches) in the SOCIA project and to design and implement a process for learning content co-creation for the Academy 2.0, with the aim of extending and improving the learning experience. Our ambition is that Social Innovation Academy will increasingly switch to a model of “distributed expertise”, which assumes that knowledge, including in an educational context, is distributed across a diffuse network of people and tools co-creating the learning content (Jenkins, 2012).

– Click on the icon to Download the report on Intellectual Output 1

IO2 Learning content co-creation: process management and publishing

The actual co-creation process was quite an intensive coordination, editorial, quality and publication effort, requiring specific quality standards to be put into place. The methodologies applied were based on rules of content pipeline management: detailed planning, monitoring of every step, and content dripping in terms of publication.

– Click on the icon to Download the report on Intellectual Output 2

IO3 Multimedia learning: extending the training channels and accessibility

The theoretical framework of the Academy relies on the Social Innovation Process model (Mulgan et al. 2017). Indeed, all content pieces are somehow mapped tone or more of the six stages of social innovation. The idea is to leverage this approach even further and to develop short videos for each of the steps of social innovation, and to do this from two perspectives: a theoretical and a practical one.

– Click on the icon to Download the report on Intellectual Output 3

IO4 Train-the-trainer methodology and tools: complementing the offer with offline training

Initially aiming to create an in-person train-the-trainer programme, the pandemic has made us pivot this IO towards an online training course for social innovators, resulting in a grant amendment. The idea is to develop an introductory learning curriculum, tools and methodologies so that the learning experience could still continue online but in a more structured and guided way.

– Click on the icon to Download the report on Intellectual Output 4

IO5 Digital learning experience: innovative ways to increase materials’ outreach and usability

The goal of this task was to implement innovative ways to improve the digital learner’s experience. With online learning technologies developing fast, there is an increasing potential to better fulfill the potential of social innovation training online. The aim of this IO was to leverage the potential of ICT /digital technology to improve the findability (and thus reach) of our materials online, to adjust the platform navigation, technological backend solutions and graphic design to new learning modes, content and channels, and to help learners access the learning content even if they are not online, or even not working on their computers at all (e.g. while commuting, or in the classroom) by allowing for downloadability and printability functionalities.

– Click on the icon to Download the report on Intellectual Output 5

IO6 Learning community: diversification, needs analysis and engagement

The aims of this IO were to expand and diversify the international community around VET social innovation (in synergies with other IOs), better understand its VET-related needs and manage such a community through carefully designed real-time and fully accessible online interactions to further boost learning and expertise sharing.

Copyright (C) SOCIA / Social Innovation Academy 2.0 consortium



The following learning objectives have been defined for the Social Innovation Academy:


The reaching of the above learning objectives is linked to following the related content types. 

-minute introduction to social innovation

essential social innovation skills to learn

social innovation glossary definitions

mentoring advice articles to answer any social innovation questions you might have

social innovation trends articles

concrete case studies of social innovations

interviews with successful social innovators

self-assessment to test your social innovation competences

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