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European Commission


Brussels, 14 April 2014

Social Innovation Prize: who will meet the Job Challenge?

Fresh ideas are urgently needed in Europe to restore our social and economic welfare. Millions of people are unemployed or have few opportunities on the job market. Social innovation can stimulate a more dynamic, inclusive and sustainable social market economy. Social innovation can offer business opportunities stemming from unmet social needs and societal challenges (e.g. care for elderly people or recycling).

After the success of the first edition of the Competition last year, the European Commission launched a second Social Innovation Competition in memory of Diogo Vasconcelos1 on 11 October 2013. This second edition is entitled The Job Challenge. This is a call to think out of the box; a call open to each and every European; a call for solutions with the potential to better serve people looking for work, to improve their capacity to find a job or to create new social/environmental businesses. This is social innovation for jobs.

As a result over 1,200 proposals were received out of which ten finalists have been selected. Three of them will each be awarded with a prize of €30,000 at the European Social Innovation Awards Ceremony in Brussels on 20 May 2014.

A brief overview of each of the ten finalists

Each of the proposals from the finalists clearly illustrates innovation in its context; potential for impact in terms of jobs; and potential for sustainability and scale (i.e. ability to be transferred to or to inspire similar projects in other EU Member States):

  • 'From waste to wow!' (Italy): fashion business demands perfection, and slightly damaged textile cannot be used for top brands. The project intends to recycle this first quality waste into limited collections and thereby provide jobs to disadvantaged women. This is about creating highly marketable products and social value through recycling.

  • 'MC² Experience @ Work' (Belgium): large companies tend to promote early retirement. At the same time many senior employees wish to stay active longer and the replacement of those experienced workers is not always easy. The Multi Company Mobility Centre is a platform enabling employees older than 50 years to stay at work with different companies, whilst keeping a contract with their original employer.

  • 'Pan-European Food Distribution Network' (Germany): Europe's food retail market tends to be oligopolistic and to yield little compensation for farmers. This limits the viability and job potential of small-scale food production. The network plans to circumvent this situation by linking producers to consumers directly with a webshop portal and with a novel, low-cost and Europe-wide logistics system.

  • 'Ruffboards' (Austria): top-end niche markets usually offer high potential for jobs. Ruffboards intends to produce uniquely designed longboards, skateboards and snowboards by employing young former offenders. This will reduce re-offending rates by training and placing them within the industry upon their release from prison.

  • 'Task Squad' (United Kingdom): first experience often comes through small jobs. Task Squad is a mobile-responsive platform connecting young people with ‘micro-work’ adverts to be posted by small businesses, charities and start-ups – anything from half-a-day to one-week duration. The platform will support young people to seize such opportunities in a safe way, whilst helping them move on to longer-term employment.

  • 'The Synergise Project' (United Kingdom): social housing and long-term unemployed have mutual affinity for each other. The project is to bring together those who need work (the unemployed tenants) with those who need to deliver services within the community (the social housing providers). Developing this relationship has the potential to create local jobs and provide an entry into the jobs market.

  • 'Urban Farm Lease' (Belgium): urban agriculture could provide 6,000 direct jobs in Brussels, and an additional 1,500 jobs considering indirect employment (distribution, waste management, training or events). The project aims at providing training, connection and consultancy so that unemployed people take advantage of the large surfaces available for agriculture in the city (e.g. 908 hectares of land or 394 hectares of suitable flat roofs).

  • 'Voidstarter' (Ireland): all major cities in Europe have “voids”, units of social housing which are empty because city councils have insufficient budgets to make them into viable homes. At the same time these cities also experience pressure with social housing provision and homelessness. Voidstarter will provide unemployed people with learning opportunities alongside skilled tradespersons in the refurbishing of the voids.

  • 'Waste-Fab-Lab' (Italy): every European produces on average more than 500 kilograms of waste each year. While the recycling industry continues to grow, many waste streams are still ignored or not connected to new innovation models (e.g. open innovation, co-design or 3D-printing). The project is meant as a shortcut from waste to creation.

  • 'YouRock!' (United Kingdom): many young people fear that unemployment is their destiny and they may never find work. Yet they avoid established professional networking platforms, while employers increasingly look at them when reviewing potential employees. YouRock will fill this gap for young people with a tool to facilitate their employability by identifying their work skills hidden in everyday activities, presenting them in a dynamic profile and offering endorsements from trusted adults.

European Social Innovation Awards Ceremony

The 10 finalists will attend the European Social Innovation Awards Ceremony on 20th May 2014 in Brussels where the 3 winners will be announced. The prizes will be presented by Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the European Commission, responsible for the Enterprise and Industry Directorate General which is organising the Competition.

The Awards Ceremony will also include interesting discussions involving social innovators, private investors and policy-makers. The best ideas received throughout the Competition will be placed at the centre of the event to showcase social innovation in practise.

Registration for the Award Ceremony is open at:

You can get to know the finalists and support their ideas on the dedicated platform.

Visit the main competition website for further information.

1: Diogo Vasconcelos chaired a Business Panel on Future EU innovation policy in January 2009 to provide input to the next European Commission, in the context of post 2010 Lisbon strategy. He was the Chairman of the Social Innovation eXchange (SIX), a global community of over 5000 individuals and organizations committed to promoting social innovation.

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