Brussels, 7 May 2013
Social Innovation Prize candidates: Grass roots creation of new businesses
The current economic crisis has highlighted the necessity for radical change in the way we approach our social and economic challenges. Across Europe millions of people are unemployed, they feel that they are stuck in low-paid jobs or that they have few opportunities in the job market. Social innovation can stimulate a more dynamic, inclusive and sustainable social market economy creating new products, services and businesses. To boost social innovation, the European Commission has launched the Social Innovation Competition in memory of Diogo Vasconcelos1 on the 1 October 2012. Europeans were invited to develop solutions for creating new opportunities for work, and for better work. As a result over 600 proposals were received out of which ten finalists have been selected. Three of them will each be awarded with a prize of €20,000 at the European Social Innovation Awards Ceremony in Brussels on 29 May 2013.
A brief overview of each of the ten finalists
Each of the proposals from the finalists clearly illustrated innovation, potential for systemic change, scale (ability to be replicated or transferred to another EU Member State or more) and potential for sustainability:
‘Digital Street Paper’ (United Kingdom): This proposal seeks to develop a digital version of street papers sold on cards carrying a unique QR code, which can be scanned on compatible devices such as tablets or smartphones. Street papers are independent newspapers and magazines that operate on a social enterprise and self-help model to provide an innovative solution to urban homelessness and unemployment. However, the sustainability of the street paper model in its current form is under threat due to the move to digital and the widespread impact of the global economic downturn. If individual street papers are to survive and continue to support homeless vendors, most will need to adapt their business model in the next 1 to 5 years. The proposal is to develop the 20-year old model and take it into the digital age through the development of a Street Paper App.
‘Economy App’ (Germany): People who are economically deprived should be given easy access to the job market making their skills widely visible. The Economy App collects information from users on what they could offer in a local economy. This can be anything from home-made cheese to carpooling to computer support or any other product or service that can reasonably be provided in a home or small business setting. The app also seeks information from users as to what their economic needs are; this is done by users registering their interest in the offers that others have entered. The software keeps a record of the value of products and services provided and accepted for every person in this economic network and so no money ever needs to change hands. This economy is free from limitations of personal liquidity and creditworthiness, and thus can also work for the financially poor. This app would provide compensated jobs for everybody involved and should generate enough income to allow improved living conditions. The larger the network of people that use the app, the more useful it will become.
‘Hotel Vision’ (Austria): Hotel Vision proposes a social business hotel mainly run by refugees. Similar to many other European countries, asylum seekers are excluded from the Austrian labour market. The asylum proceedings often take several years until a final decision of the authorities is reached. During this time, asylum seekers can suffer from trauma, social isolation, a lack of self-confidence, language barriers and thus often end up in unemployment. Hotel Vision offers a new perspective for these people - a chance to show their skills and ambitions and to participate in society. The Hotel represents an excellent opportunity to employ and to integrate people from around the world and to learn from other cultures. The hotel will feature a variety of services and offer different training places for refugees to prevent exclusion from labour market, loss of confidence and poverty.
‘Mama CoWork’ (Poland): Mama CoWork proposes a co-working office for mothers that allows them to re-enter the workplace and provides childcare as well as activities and engagements for babies. Mama CoWork also offers development workshops and career counselling for mothers, some of whom might have been out of work for a long period. The idea is to create and develop a place called “Mama CoWork” that supports work-life balance.
‘MITWIN.NET’ (Spain): MITWIN.NET is an intergenerational professional network conceived to make possible the contact between people in order to share a job post and knowledge, with the main goal of reducing the high rate of youth unemployment. MITWIN.NET proposes that older workers share a job with younger people, allowing those approaching retirement to share their knowledge with those being incorporated into the job market.
‘Restart-up!’ (Italy): Restart Up! proposes an online platform to allow young unemployed people to find a job according to their skills. Through a web platform, unemployed 16-24 year olds would be able to find a job according to their skills. However, unlike online platforms that simply collect CV’s, Restart Up! would assist the target audience with educational opportunities, developing their educational plan, focusing their objectives and supporting them in reaching their objectives. The innovative aspect of Restart Up! is that it proposes to capitalize on the opportunities that come from the world of the ‘endangered competences’. Europe, with its geographical peculiarities, is a treasure of traditional and geographical knowledge. Industries like the Murano glass industry in Venice are at risk because of the lack of generational turnover. Restart Up! aims to link young unemployed people with such industries.
‘Romano Cher Social Cooperatives’ (Romania): Romano Cher Social Cooperatives aims to support traditional Roma craftsmen, who can often find themselves excluded from the current labour market. Romano Cher Social Cooperatives aims to provide lasting, sustainable solutions for both individuals and Roma communities, enabling them to interconnect and embrace their heritage, skills and communities. The proposal is to establish social enterprises (cooperatives) and invest in equipment cooperatives that will lead to the multiplication of beneficial effects of these types of entrepreneurial communities. The model stimulates local initiatives and resources to generate employment by being run by the Roma communities themselves. Roma communities can become social entrepreneurs, founders, owners of their own businesses and a positive example in their near-circle society.
‘StudentFunder.com’ (United Kingdom): StudentFunder.com proposes crowdfunding to help people raise funds and build networks to get into education, employment and enterprise. StudentFunder.com proposes an online marketplace where students raise funding for their courses and offer something in return. Funders can provide donations in exchange for repayments in kind (for example a research project for £1000) or repayments in currency (of principal only, up to 5% p.a. or a share of earnings for a period of time). Through Studentfunder.com, students build their networks, mentorship relationships can emerge and students can gain hands on business experience. Recruiters, at the same time, can shape the talent pool to suit their needs. StudentFunder.com seeks to raise aspirations for the young, reduce the financial burden of education on the less privileged, and make education more business relevant: social mobility through up-skilling and sharing.
‘Success Breeds Success from Community Catalysts’ (United Kingdom): Community Catalysts propose connecting talent in business with talent in communities to create enterprise and jobs for social benefit by helping people to use their talents and imagination to set up sustainable, small-scale social care and health services (micro-enterprises) that people can purchase. These micro-enterprises could be offered by a wide range of people, including disabled and older people and family carers. Community Catalysts want to extend their current reach and impact through a managed network of volunteer business and professional mentors supporting community entrepreneurs throughout the UK through the establishment of a purpose built on-line platform to co-ordinate and manage the network and enable ‘virtual support’. Community Catalysts also propose the development of a time-credit system to ensure that free advice is valued and used well, unlocking further volunteering capacity.
‘Tam-Tam Work’ (Italy): Tam-Tam Work seeks to exploit any widely-used packaging (such as bread bags, food and grocery packaging/bags, gift wraps, etc.) to disseminate relevant information on education, employment, training opportunities or new jobs. Thus Tam-Tam Work’s social innovation proposal aims to create knowledge, connections and new job opportunities with a bottom-up approach. Tam-Tam Work aims to generate an impact on the job market by permeating it with relevant information. The objective is for packaging to become a type of social network and aggregator of local interests focused on new jobs, work information, work data and profiles, further information is also provided online. The proposal also suggests placing interactive tags on packaging that links to a dedicated digital Tam-Tam Work showcase: a database of information and user-generated content.
European Social Innovation Award Ceremony
The 10 finalists will attend the European Social Innovation Award Ceremony on 29th May 2013, in Brussels where the 3 winners will be announced. The Award Ceremony will also include interesting discussions from experts in the field of social innovation. It will gather around 200 participants coming from corporations, foundations, social enterprises and start-ups. The prizes will be presented by Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the European Commission, responsible for the Enterprise and Industry Directorate which is organising the Competition.
Antonio Tajani commented that social innovation has a potential to address the major challenge – not least for the people who are searching for new jobs, but also for society as a whole. He said “The European Social Innovation Competition recognises that if Europe is to emerge stronger from these difficult times, it is important to stimulate a new model of growth, underpinned by knowledge and innovation as its key drivers. New ideas on how to unlock fresh talent, skills, experience and insights of people who have a great deal to offer to our economy and society are needed. Social innovation is about new ideas that work to address pressing unmet needs. The Competition aims to promote the right environment to enable social innovation activities to grow from ideas into new goods and services, and into sustainable businesses and markets. It also provides an opportunity for Europeans to hear about the solutions to new social realities that are being generated.
Registration for the Award Ceremony is now open at
You can get to know finalists and support their ideas on the Competition page