Social innovations are ground-breaking developments that seek to solve social problems or satisfy social needs better than more traditional approaches. They are factors of social change and need to be understood as processes. New approaches or options require social acceptance in order to achieve the degree of prevalence that will allow them to be socially effective. Indeed, we cannot truly speak of social innovation until something has reached this degree of prevalence and effect.
In its Europe 2020 strategy, the European Union has set itself the objective of promoting social innovation to combat poverty and create employment. In 2011, the European Union adopted the Social Business Initiative, with twelve key measures intended to strengthen access to financial resources and improve the regulatory framework and the visibility of the effort. The objective of the initiative is to maximise the growth potential of this sector, especially in times of crisis. With its Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) and its European Social Entrepreneurship Fund (EuSEF), the European Commission has been looking for concrete ways of giving social enterprises better access to finance. The EU Commission has also convened an Expert Group for Social Entrepreneurship (GECES). The Commission has launched a public consultation for the mid-term evaluation of the EaSI programme.
In the EU, the issue of social innovation is often associated with social entrepreneurship, i. e. with the persons and organisations who implement social innovations. The debate on this issue is very lively and, as a result of structural differences across Europe, often confusing. Some of the topics discussed have been impact measurement and scaling, i. e. (geographic) dissemination. These debates can potentially also have implications for the organisation of social services in the EU member states. The involvement of the Observatory begins at these interfaces.