Social Innovation Europe (SIE) provides a community for innovative thinkers from all 28 member states to come together and create a streamlined, vigorous social innovation field in Europe, to raise a shared voice, and to propel Europe to lead the practice of social innovation globally. The main task of EMES was to co-design a research agenda for Europe.
The objective of SIE was three-fold:
- Expand the network beyond the usual suspects. The SIE consortium brought together networks that span across the whole of Europe, from East to West, from cities of every size, to more rural areas, from big network organizations to boutique expertise.
- Help social innovators work together better and facilitate more cross border collaborations and projects. There is no shortage of great ideas and projects in Europe, but many of them remain small and isolated. SIE set out to connect the community and to work together beyond physical or institutional frontiers.
- Keep members informed of the best projects and most up-to-date news in Europe through the online knowledge hub and magazine. SIE shared best practice, key insights, interviews and the latest research from across Europe, working with its community to co-create the agenda for the next few years of building the field of social innovation in Europe.
EMES main task in SIE
The main task of EMES was to co-design a social innovation research agenda for Europe (Co-SIRA). To date, social innovation practice has been ahead of theory, but research is catching up, partly owing to increased interest (and investment) from research funded bodies. Our goal was to give researchers the opportunity to co-create a future research agenda in collaboration with other stakeholders, bringing together the myriad of approaches and definitions operating exist across different disciplines (sociology, business administration, economics, political science, communication studies, etc.).
The goal was to collect the different research approaches (as an aspect of an evaluation process, a policy area, an organisation, a technological trend) and identify the main topics deemed relevant by the research community. Based on a review of suggestions and current research on social innovation in Europe we outlined a possible future research agenda, which is of cource a snapshot of where we stand now. The result does not only offer a powerful tool for aligning visions for the sector where new avenues can be explored but also the basis for engaging in debates with policy-makers about future research support and coordination activities. It is an exercise that we recommend to continue.
EMES created a core academic team (CAT) composed of Taco Brandsen (The Netherlands), Giulio Ecchia (Italy), Lars Hulgård (Denmark), supported by Rocío Nogales and Jenny Eschweiler from EMES, and the Young Foundation. We approached the agenda more as a process than as a topic list: If we are to capture the input of various constituencies, drawing up an agenda should be an open process, inspired by the open innovation approach, which assumes that sources of relevant knowledge are widely distributed and that more participative approaches are needed. Consequently, EMES decided to embark in a co-creation process inviting academic stakeholders across Europe.
We started with a document inviting the research community to be self-reflective around the question “What, how and why a co-created research agenda?” Existing formal and informal networks of researchers and the wider stakeholder networks were invited to comment at a number of academic events (e.g.SI-LIVE in Lisbon 2014, EMES Conference Helsinki) via the SIE Facebook page and an online survey.
We agreed on six areas of inquiry for future research on SI:
- Individual intrinsic motivations of social innovators;
- Organisational changes and SI;
- Measurement of SI;
- Theories and models of SI;
- Public policy innovation;
- Critical perspectives in SI research.
We completed a review of 15 EU-funded projects on SI with a view on identifying salient traits and suggestion for research topics to be included in the agenda, based on responses by project coordinators who showed great commitment of researchers to advance knowl-edge in the field. Finally, from February to April 2015 we mobilized a group of experts com-posed by EMES members and some external experts and asked them to find salient trends, ideas across projects. In a second step we asked them to provide input on the final version co-SIRA. The members of this experts group are Adalbert Evers (University of Heidelberg, Germany), Agnès Hubert (Sciences Po, France), Jean-Louis, Laville (CNAM/LISE, France), Frank Moulaert (Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium) and Simon Teasdale (Glasgow Cale-donian University, United Kingdom). All input from the research community is included throughout the co-SIRA.
Some previous efforts similar to Co-SIRA in this respect were made within the framework of recent EU projects, namely WILCO and TEPSIE. The first one teamed up with DG Research to organize the first attempt at having a collective reflection around key topics for research on SI and related topics and various methodologies. The result was the Policy Review “Social innovation research in the European Union: Approaches, findings and future directions“available below. The second initiative relates to the SI Research Portal led by TEPSIE, which represents the first effort to gather and create an on-line forum for exchange for SI researchers.
Despite being proud to present an up-to-date peer-reviewed research agenda for social innovation would like to make explicit the shortcomings and limits of the present CO-SIRA exercise:
- This is not a ‘definite’ document but rather a snapshot that should be completed and updated.
- The stock-taking exercise is limited in terms of analysis of the information gathered.
- The geographic nature of the study is purposely European but considering the global playing field, with an openness towards epistemological diversity.
- The wish is to contribute to a reinforcement of a cross-national dialogue, also in the area of a SI research agenda.
Other SIE Consortium members:
- Association Européenne pour l’Information sur le Développement Local (AEIDL)
- Danish Technological Institute
- Euclid Network
- Groupe SOS
- Partners Albania
- Social Innovation Exchange (SIX)
- Young Foundation
SIE III is funded by DG Enterprise and Industry of the European Commission.