This series of reports describes innovative projects in the areas of housing, employment, family care and immigrant integration in 20 cities across Europe. Each report describes and assesses local innovations in relation to process, partners and stakeholders, and level of embededdness in the local welfare system.
Local contexts are important in order to understand innovations and change on the local level:
Innovations are embedded in local welfare discourses that can be about classical welfare issues, managerial or encourage participation and pluralism. Such discourses will influence the political opportunity structures for social innovation.
In addition to that, there is a level of historical path-dependency that determines innovation success to some extent.
Welfare is a complex system that encompasses different administrative welfare units as much as the general political system. Innovations should be understood in relation to this complex environment.
Finally, innovative ideas might be restricted by the locally prevailing general discourse but may get much endorsement by a community of experts in a special policy field and thus reduce limits for innovative concepts.
Among the many context factors that have an impact on innovations and their further development, the strategies and value orientations of the local political administrative system are still of central importance. Local politics and governance include increasingly interactions with partners reaching from casual arrangements and agreements in networks over to cross-sector partnerships and corporatist frameworks.
Even though welfare innovations are in many ways nationally and locally specific, there are traits of innovations that are international in character:
Innovations entail approaches and instruments that enrich and change the classical tool kits of social welfare and service policies, e.g. developing services that give personalized bundles of support or creating new forms of social investments into people’s capabilities.
They entail innovations in public governance to various degrees, i.e. when networks and coalition are built across departments and sectors are part of many innovative projects and sometimes even “meta-governance” takes new forms of deliberation and consent finding in search for the public good.
Shared features point to the links between these innovations and post-traditional welfare concepts: services that address the strengths and not merely the weaknesses of their target groups are examples for enabling welfare concepts and the ways new services are more family minded, personalized, but tie in people’s support networks contributes to an upgrading of the role of communities in mixed welfare systems
What role can innovative organisations play within these forms of governance and policy-making? Pointing at the innovative quality of organisations and projects can give additional support for developing policies that give social innovation a place in the overall changing architecture of welfare governance. This series of city reports offers an insight in many inspiring social and public innovations that offer plenty food for thought and further analysis.