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Brussels, 21 May 2014
Social Innovation: conference agrees on need for broad partnerships to support social investment agenda
The European Commission conference on Mobilising Social Policy Innovation, held on the 19 and 20 May in Brussels, showed broad agreement amongst the participants on the need for social policy innovation and social enterprises to be given a greater role in delivering the social outcomes European citizens expect. Social policy innovation needs to be based on partnerships bringing together public sector, civil society organisations, social entrepreneurs and other private actors.
Identifying priorities for the way forward, the conference took stock of the experiences of 23 innovative projects, as well as of lessons learnt after 5 years of dedicated financial support by the EU.
“Social policy innovation is crucial to realising our vision of Europe, the vision that the Europe 2020 Strategy seeks to build — a Europe based on a social market economy fit for the 21st century and capable of fostering smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. We face enormous challenges — long-term unemployment, poverty, growing inequality within and between Member States, population ageing and a weakening of Europe’s competitiveness. We can rise to these challenges by making the necessary structural reforms in line with the Employment Package, the Recommendation on establishing a Youth Guarantee and the Social Investment Package. The time for action is now. Social policy innovation needs to be embedded in policy-making and linked to social policy priorities”, said László Andor, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, opening the two days of discussions with over 300 participants from all over Europe.
The call to action was well received by the participants who represented a broad array of key stakeholders ranging from national, regional and local authorities, NGOs, social entrepreneurs and private companies, social service providers and academics.
All evidence available from the EU's work on social policy innovation– including from the projects presented at the conference – show that the most successful social policy innovations involve a broad spectrum of actors. In particular, closer partnerships between the public sector, civil society, businesses and social entrepreneurs are critical to help reach the Europe 2020 targets, and create momentum and scale.
More and better EU financing for Social Policy Innovation
Within the new programming period of the European Social Fund (2014-2020), there is much more scope to use the ESF in support of social policy innovation. The new regulatory framework facilitates social innovation through a more integrated approach, simplification, thus a better access to funds, and enhanced partnership.
The ESF regulation for the new programming period now allocates a minimum of 20% of resources towards support to social inclusion. As emphasised at the conference, however, this means little unless Member States make best use of the full potential of the European Social Fund.
Direct funding for social policy innovation is also available through the Employment and Social Innovation programme (EaSI) which has a budget of €919 million. The first call for proposals under EaSI was announced at the Conference by Director General Michel Servoz. Under the call, a total of €9.2 million will be available for social policy innovations supporting reforms in social services. This is likely to include support for one-stop-shops in service delivery, improved personalised care and private-public partnerships in service delivery.