A European Commission seminar was an opportunity to discuss innovation in social services and the outcomes of a range of EU funded projects.

Together with our members, ESN participated at the seminar ‘Social Innovation for Social Services’ organised by the European Commission on 11 September. The seminar was an opportunity to share projects funded by the Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) programme of the Commission.

During the event ESN members presented their projects including the Municipality of Kortrijk, the Region of Castile and León, the City of Athens, and the Region of Andalusia.

Defining innovation in social services

Debates during the event centred on how innovation is understood and why it is important for social services. Alfonso Lara Montero, Chief Executive of ESN, explained that innovation can be seen as making changes to social services organisations, culture and practice with the aim of improving people’s lives.

Practices presented at the seminar highlighted a number of factors that are essential to ensure that innovation becomes sustainable. Firstly, a key element is a focus on outcomes for people and their quality of life, rather than on processes and outputs. Secondly, evidence gathered through evaluation and research is crucial for demonstrating impact. Thirdly, technology can be both a driver of innovation by providing new ways to provide and manage care but also to ensure its sustainability.

Innovation in practice: ESN members

The Resisor project presented at the conference by the Region of Andalusia is one example of innovative technology. It combines all information about a service user into one electronic social record, making management systems much more efficient and giving users access to their data.
The MISSION project presented by the Municipality of Kortrijk, employs multi-disciplinary case managers who provide tailor-made support to disadvantaged families. The innovative approach helps families to access a range of local services in an integrated way. 

Innovation in Social Services: Can the EU help?

Innovative practices implemented by social services are crucial for responding to the big challenges our societies face today. Ageing population and the austerity measures imposed on public authorities require social services to provide higher quality and more cost-effective support.

“EU funded projects can make an even bigger impact. The EU funding calls have to be made flexible enough to customise interventions according to specific local challenges and contexts. This is currently not possible due to strict rules on projects, and a focus on reporting on outputs rather than outcomes. We can see a bigger impact by putting more emphasis on sustainability plans in project calls, with an enhanced role for the EU in brokering partnerships and supporting the upscaling of local projects” Alfonso concluded.