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Recovery through social innovation – a global perspective

Over 100 participants from 24 countries discussed the opportunities and challenges that we face today due to the economic situation and  debated on how to turn the crisis into an opportunity for using social innovation.

But what exactly is social innovation? The organizers of the event understand it as ‘new ideas that work meeting social needs’. This wide definition stresses an implementation and diffusion that makes promising ideas useful. Manuel Castells argued in the video presentation that social innovation is not something one can learn from books, but as it is already happening we need to use observation and experience as basic tools to enhance our skills. Therefore, the first day of the summer school started with visits to non-governmental organizations in Lisbon to see what projects they run. One group was able to see a project related to supported employment and examine how through this activity individuals from disadvantaged social backgrounds are brought into the labour market. The other group saw how a group of enthusiasts change pediatric wards in hospitals into happier places with an undertaking called ‘Clown doctors’. These field visits were an introduction to the first conference session devoted to an overview of what is going on with social innovation throughout the world. Apparently, more and more governments are learning, as Christian Bason from Danish ‘Mindlab’ said, that citizens are part of the solution and not part of the problem. So to meet the new challenges public policy has to change and social innovation is the way to achieve more creative solutions. The problem starts with the definition of what social innovation is, how to provide effective frameworks for it and introduce it faster, on a larger scale and in a more sustainable way.

During the conference there were presented good practices that meet these goals. To find out more, download the report.

For more information about the summer school, organizers, participants and their profiles check www.socialinnovationexchange.org.

Photos of the event are available at Flickr.