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Social enterprise - a social innovation

Social innovation is a relatively new concept in knowledge-based development, and blurs traditional boundaries between institutional sectors, public and private, types of innovations, and their creators and users.

Taking a more comprehensive view of innovation processes, outcomes and actors creates new business opportunities, but requires new approaches and challenges traditionally technology-focused innovation policy frameworks. In the Innovation Union 2020, the European Commission considers social innovation an important field. It is about tapping into the ingenuity of charities, associations and social entrepreneurs to find new ways of meeting social needs that are not adequately met by the market, the public and civic sectors.

Better services and different solutions are needed to use resources more effectively and generate social value by enabling any citizen to become an active part of the innovation process, and a co-creator of innovation outcomes. Social entrepreneurship combines economic and social aspects of innovation, creating profit opportunities while generating social value. New solutions are not produced for the target groups from outside or above but with their active involvement, making such approaches both sustainable and adaptable.

The novelty of the social innovation concept and its cross-sectoral nature makes impact assessment and evaluation problematic, and complicates access to funding (both public and private). New financing and other support instruments need to be specifically tailored to the individual stages of the social innovation cycle. In the particular case of social enterprise, legislative changes are usually required to encourage up scaling and the capture of social value. International policy experience in social enterprise is quite extensive but varied, and it is important that any policy learning takes account of local specificities.

Read more about what UNECE does:

Innovation and Competitiveness Policies (http://www.unece.org/ceci/ic)

Innovation Performance Reviews (http://www.unece.org/innovationperformancereviews)

This expert opinion is based on an article by Ms. Anna Kaderabkova of the Centre for Innovation Studies at the University of Economics and Management, Prague, included in issue 2 of the Knowledge-based Development Newsletter (http://www.unece.org/KBDnews).

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