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The ESDN Quarterly Reports provide in-depth documentation of a selected topic on a quarterly basis. The current ESDN Quarterly Report is displayed below. For previous ESDN Quarterly Reports click here.

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ESDN Quarterly Report April 2015

Social Innovation in Europe

An overview of the concept of social innovation in the context of European initiatives and practices

by Umberto Pisano, Lisa Lange, Gerald Berger

Social Innovation is very high on the political agenda, not only as new way of addressing social issues often overlooked either by the private sector or the public sector, but also as a chance to respond to the multiple social, economic and environmental crises that are faced by societies all over the world. In Europe, austerity, budget cuts, unemployment, ageing, migration, and climate change are only a few of the many issues that can be cited as examples of the effects of such crises. Whereas the public sector is often having difficulties to address such challenging issues adequately, the business sector often does not find it profitable to address those issues. Therefore, civil society and individual citizens are often attempting to react and to seek new ways through ‘social innovation’ and, thus, new structures, hybrid organisations or a multitude of attempts across sectors are on the rise. Despite this strong involvement of civil society, and the fact that citizen engagement should be seen as a constant of social innovation policies and activities, social innovation can emerge from any sector.

In general, the link between social innovation and the sustainable development agenda and policies is very apparent, especially with regards to social and equity issues. In this Quarterly Report (QR), our intention is to understand and showcase the main initiatives and activities undertaken at the EU level, and present several examples that help to understand how social innovation works in practice.

This QR comprises four chapters: The first chapter defines the concept of social innovation, also focusing on the role of social entrepreneurship in the context of the social innovation discourse. The second chapter provides an outlook on the policy activities that are happening in the European Union. In the third chapter, we portray three practical experiences of social innovation that are able to explain of what social innovation is all about. The report concludes by summarising the main topics treated in the previous chapters so as to offer several considerations that can guide the reader in reflecting deeper on the topic.

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