Solutions come out of partnerships

"We need to sustain social investment in human capital to avoid higher costs in the future", László Andor told delegates at the Conference on Social Innovation and Social Policy Experimentation on 26 November in Brussels. With this conference, the Commission wanted to look at how best to use EU funds, what type of EU support would be most effective and what themes to prioritise for social change and innovation.

Christian Bason is Director of Innovation at MindLab Denmark, a cross-departmental government agency. In his view, "the problem in the public sector is not getting ideas, it's getting good ideas - for that, we need to collaborate." In response to a question from ESN he told the audience: "Local government in Denmark is flourishing with innovation" and added that policy makers should think about how to stimulate innovation at local level.

Marieke Huysentruyt from the London School of Economics cited research indicating that social entrepreneurs are more innovative than public authorities. However, they are of limited economic weight compared to the huge output of the welfare state. Two points came from the audience that always bear repeating:
- we need to know whether social innovation has a positive impact for people, e.g. in reducing poverty
- we don't necessarily need innovation where good practices already exist

ESN's vice-chair Christian Fillet facilitated a workshop on testing and upscaling social policy innovation. He referred to the role of public authorities in his opening remarks: "We have to innovate within social services, for sure, but we also have to be a part of social innovation in the local community and in the wider welfare and health system." It was clear from the workshop that "solutions come out of partnerships" (in the words of Louis Vervloet of the Flemish ESF Managing Authority) and that there is more work to be done to join up the EU's thinking on innovation in education, health and social policy.

For further information about ESN’s commitment to promoting innovative thinking through its activities, please check out the Budapest seminar 2011 ‘Social services in Europe: Innovative responses for challenging times’ and the ongoing 9 country senior management ‘Leadership, performance and innovation’ working group. ESN is also working with a number of partners in other sectors including IBM, whose recent International Social Sector Forum in Warsaw was addressed by ESN Chief Executive John Halloran (report to follow).


  • Learn more about social innovation and the European Innovation Partnership here and here
  • Read more about the conference and the sessions
  • Watch a short video about three innovative examples of European projects and their results on the ground