Local background of the social innovations
The concept of social innovation, its meaning and understanding is a relatively new approach for all stakeholders, even for the academic community. This concept comes more as a part of Europeanization of social policy, one kind of top-down concept of modernisation of social policy. Social policy is mostly centralised and in the hands of the government. In some cases, in particular specific social care programmes, local authorities also have responsibility. Mainstream programmes are implemented in rather bureaucratic ways, following certain procedures, with lot of paper work, isolated from other stakeholders in the field and are less sensitive to alternative approaches or partnerships with other stakeholders dealing with same issues. It is evident that these places of policymaking and policy implementation controlled by the state are not places of creativity and innovation.
Recent research (Bežovan 2010) on the roles and contribution of local stakeholders in the development of welfare mix states that civil society organisations are more aware than state organisations of the concept of social innovation. Projects in child and elderly care, community development projects and advocacy of the social rights of vulnerable groups are mentioned as spaces of social innovation.
Some innovative practices in employment and development of sustainable pension systems might be seen as real social innovations and even best practice. However, to have such best practice status they need “political recognition,” which is very often not a rationale choice. However, concurrence of the country with European Union laws requires legitimacy for social experimentation and social innovation.
Welfare innovations in the three policy fields
The three social innovations presented in this report were chosen based on background interviews with local stakeholders, experts, civil society representatives, practitioners and our own investigations of available resources (newspapers, websites and policy documents). The portraits of the three innovations, introduced by a comprehensive description, are organised alongside three basic themes: 1) types of services and ways of addressing users; 2) internal organisation and modes of working and 3) embeddedness of the project in the local welfare system. The innovations are presented alongside policy fields. The innovations chosen were a social mentoring project for employment of disadvantaged and marginalised groups, CSO RODA – Social Innovation: From Civic Engagement to Social Entrepreneurship, and the public rental-housing programme