Local background of the social innovations
It cannot be claimed that social innovation is a widespread notion or term in the Swedish context. Innovations are still very much related to the launching of new products, inventions and technical development. Welfare development has, by tradition, not been considered as innovative (Rønning et al. 2013). Innovation has also mainly been related to the private – for-profit – sector. However, there is awakening political interest in social innovations and social investments, at both the national and local level. Since the development of the welfare state in the mid-1900s the field of welfare in Sweden has been dominated by services produced by the public sector. However, during the latest decades, and still continuing to the present day, there have been structural changes taking place within the field of welfare in terms of deregulation and privatisation. These have opened up opportunities for alternative producers of welfare services. Moreover, with strained budgets and unsolved social problems, local and central governments are looking to the for-profit and the non-profit sectors for innovations and entrepreneurial initiatives.
Malmö is the third largest city in Sweden, with around 300,000 inhabitants, and it is a growing city. Malmö is a central part of the so-called Öresund region, which covers the very south of Sweden and parts of Denmark, including the capital, Copenhagen. Malmö and Copenhagen have been connected since the year 2000 by a bridge for cars and trains. This has increased commuting within the region. A number of changes have taken place that affected the local economy of Malmö. On a more general level, Malmö has made attempts to transform from an industrial city to a “knowledge” city. Malmö University was established in 1998, and there are, for example, currently 25,000 university students in the city. In addition to Malmö University, educational institutions include the World Maritime University, the Royal University College of Fine Arts, Malmö Academy of Music and Malmö Theatre Academy. The largest sectors in Malmö are trade and communications, corporate services and finance and health care and welfare. (Segnestam Larsson 2012). At the same time the city has struggled for several decades with severe social problems such as high unemployment, the high costs of social benefits, and growing segregation.
Malmö has a long and strong tradition of social democratic local government. During the present term, the Social Democrats are governing in alliance with the Left Wing Party and the Green Party. At the time of the case study, the local authority in Malmö was organised into 12 field-specific administrations and 10 territorially organised city district administrations. In July 2013, the territorial districts were merged to five. The city district administrations are responsible for providing services in particular areas. This include child care, elementary schools, care of the elderly, care of the disabled, social services and social welfare benefits, local leisure activities, local culture and the city district libraries. Furthermore, the local welfare system include local companies, such as the local housing company (MKB), the Malmö Incubator (MINC) and other service and industrial companies that require more business-like organisation (Malmö Stad 2012; Segnestam Larsson 2013). Malmö can be described as a city of many projects within the field of welfare.
The city of Malmö has a long history of engagement with civil society, with traditionally strong associations in the fields of sports, culture, and leisure, organised under the umbrella organisation MIP (Malmö ideella föreningars paraplyorganisation) (ibid 2013).
Social Innovation in Malmö
In the city of Malmö the term “social innovation” is present in the dominant policy debates on local welfare. There seems to be a struggle among stakeholders within the welfare field to find new and more innovative ways to handle social problems such as youth unemployment and segregation. Another term used at the policy level is “social sustainability”. Malmö has launched a “Commission for a Socially Sustainable Malmö”, and one of its main tasks is to propose strategies for reducing health inequalities, and improve the long-term living conditions for the citizens of Malmö. (Segnestam Larsson 2013).
The innovations that we have studied in Malmö have developed in the context of the restructured Swedish welfare state, a local government searching for new solutions for social problems, and a growing interest in social enterprises, social entrepreneurship and innovations. The link with opportunities of EU funding is clearly present in the innovations that we describe below. The Coompanion Incubator and Yalla Trappan are examples of projects that aim to create work opportunities through the development of new co-operative businesses and through labour-integrated social enterprises.
The Area Programme (Områdesprogrammet) has a somewhat different background. The ideas this programme is based on can be traced back to ideas of neighbourhood revitalisation of run-down “segregated” areas, suffering from socio-economic stagnation. Områdesprogrammet seeks citizen engagement and the involvement of civil society stakeholders in new types of cooperation. Områdesprogrammet is conducted in neighbourhoods that were built during the so-called Million Homes Programme that existed between the mid-1960s and the mid-1970s. The aim of this programme was to combat the housing shortage problem and to modernise the housing stock. In most cities, this resulted in new housing estates being built in the urban periphery. In the city of Malmö, these areas are located both in the central city and suburban areas. Some of the areas built during the Million Homes Programme, especially those that were of large-scale and high-rise character, have been subject to criticism. Problems that have been pointed out concerned both the areas’ physical appearance and the lack of social and sometimes also commercial facilities (Andersson et al., 2010). Today, the large housing estates in the city suburbs are associated with segregation and social problems. In these neighbourhoods, there are close connections between segregation, social welfare dependence and poverty (Schierup 2006).
The innovations studied have been chosen according to a broad definition of innovations, as ideas or approaches that are new in a particular context, but implemented in practice to some degree. The innovations combine in different manners the policy fields and target groups that are pointed out in the WILCO project. The innovations are of different scales and complexity, including a broad neighbourhood programme, consisting of different projects (Områdesprogrammet), via the Coompanion Incubator, the aim of which is to provide inspiration and a support structure for innovations, to a defined project, i.e. Yalla Trappan. The empirical material for this report has been collected from websites, various official documents and through interviews with staff and users at the studied projects. The interviews form the primary basis for the descriptions of the respective innovations, also including interviews that are not directly referred to in the text below.