Social innovation in Europe: what relation with solidarity economy? Towards a plural European vision of social innovation
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Social innovation is on today’s [political] agenda. In Europe, the year 2009 was dedicated to creativity and innovation; in 2010, the “union for innovation” initiative was promulgated by the Commission; in 2011, “Social Innovation Europe” was launched. The European Union introduced social innovation in its strategic programming towards 2020; the structural funds include it, as training programs managed by the Directorate of Employment and Social Affairs.
Nevertheless, the popularity of social innovation goes hand in hand with the polysemy of the term. To clarify the different uses, we will proceed in four phases. As a first step, we will insist on the importance of placing social innovation at the heart of a debate, dating back over two centuries, between two conceptions of solidarity. The assumption here is that social innovation is a reformulation and update of this debate, which will encourage us to think in a long-term perspective. In a second step, we will briefly review the origins of the term social innovation and the historical context of its emergence. Thirdly, we will identify two contrasting models of support for social innovation that explain a number of contemporary ambiguities. Finally in a fourth stage, the challenges of appropriate policy will be discussed.
Conseil Consultatif du Ripess Europe