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Growing social innovation : a guide for policy makers

Authors: Victoria Boelman; Amy Kwan; John René Keller Lauritzen; Jeremy Millard; Rachel Schon;
Publication date: 2014
Keywords: social innovation, policymakers, guidelines

This report suggests a number of approaches which policy makers can take, drawing on examples taken from around the world. Firstly, governments are the principle creators of public value and can be a source of innovation themselves (see chapter 1). In recent years we have seen the emergence of innovation teams, which help government departments use innovative methods to form and deliver policy. Governments can also support innovation by providing and stimulating funding (2.1). In this report examples are given of how public funds can support social innovation and how governments have used innovative funding mechanisms to stimulate social investment. Governments can also support social innovation by sharing non-financial assets, such as allowing community groups to manage local amenities (2.3).

Governments can support social innovation by funding and facilitating capacity building programmes such as accelerators and  incubators (2.6). Many social enterprises require assistance to develop the skills and knowledge needed to scale, win contracts to deliver services or to receive investment. Governments can support social innovators by facilitating networking events to bring diverse  participants together (2.4). Innovation often happens as a function of dialogue between a range of perspectives, and government is one of the institutions with the resources and power to make this happen. Some policy makers give support to organisations which bring social innovators together to share ideas across borders. Policy makers and innovators must engage with citizens if they want to succeed, but engagement needs to be well designed (2.8). In order for governments to support a socially innovative economy and society in the ways as outlined above, accurate and easy to use methods are needed to measure the size of the social economy so that resources can be targeted to where they are most needed (2.9).

Appropriate legal frameworks can be decisive in enabling much of the above to take place, both to directly support social innovation and to be conducive for it to take place more broadly across society (2.5). Digital technology can be a powerful support for existing social innovations, an enabler of new social innovations and a transformer of the governance and framework conditions underlying social innovation. Policy makers and governments should support the frameworks and infrastructure which underpin the role digital technology can play in social innovation (2.10). [Extracted from Executive Summary].


Boelman, V.; Kwan, A.; Lauritzen, J. R. K.;  Millard, j. and Schon R. (2014) Growing social innovation : a guide for policy makers. A deliverable of the project: “The theoretical, empirical and policy foundations for building social innovation in Europe” (TEPSIE), European Commission – 7th Framework Programme, Brussels: European Commission, DG Research

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