Social innovation is about finding new solutions to social problems. Evidence-based practice and the use of technology are two important elements in the development of innovative initiatives in social services. These initiatives are crucial for responding to growing demand for social care due to an ageing population, and for ensuring that social services maximise quality of life for people experiencing care.

Our work with ESN Members

We are examining with our members the opportunities and challenges that technology offers for social services. We will do this between 2019-2021 through the framework of a working group on social services digitalisation and technology. The working group will explore different technological solutions in social services, from digitalising case-management documentation to robotic arms for people with mobility impairments, whilst discussing issues around implementation, such as how to equip staff and users with the skills to utilise new technologies.

We have also placed a significant amount of attention on evidence-based practice. We have been working with our members since 2012 to explore how they understand evidence-based practice and outlining methods that social services can follow for promoting it. This work culminated in our publication ‘Evidence-based social services: Toolkit for planning & evaluating social services’.

Our contribution to the European level

The importance of social innovation is being increasingly recognised at international level. The European Commission’s 2013 Social Investment Package (SIP) outlined the need to modernise social welfare systems, and that social policies and services should be tested to identify the most effective.

Meanwhile at local level, directors of social services want to see evidence that their investments are effective and efficient, especially when they face pressures of budgetary constraint and increasing demand for services.

We bring our members together to share and discuss new trends in social innovation, providing practical guidance for social services to exploit the potential of new technology and develop evidence-based practice. By promoting the capacity of social services at local level to innovate, we contribute to the European level objectives set out in the SIP from the bottom-up.

ESN Resources

•    Evidence-based social services: Toolkit for planning & evaluating social services
•    Evidence in public social services: An overview from practice and applied research
•    2014 Contemporary issues in the public management of social services in Europe - Innovation, research and evidence-based practice
•    Paper on innovation in public sector

External Resources

•    European Commission guidance on social innovation
•    2015 European Commission publication on Social Policy innovation
•    Nielsen, S.B.; Grunberger, P. & Pedersen, C.S.: What types of evidence are needed for decision makers