Social innovation in Europe: what relation with solidarity economy? Towards a plural European vision of social innovation
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Social innovation is on today’s [political] agenda. In Europe, the year 2009 was dedicated to creativity and
innovation; in 2010, the “union for innovation” initiative was promulgated by the Commission; in 2011, “Social
Innovation Europe” was launched. The European Union introduced social innovation in its strategic programming
towards 2020; the structural funds include it, as training programs managed by the Directorate of Employment and
Nevertheless, the popularity of social innovation goes hand in hand with the polysemy of the term.
To clarify the different uses, we will proceed in four phases. As a first step, we will insist on the importance of placing
social innovation at the heart of a debate, dating back over two centuries, between two conceptions of solidarity.
The assumption here is that social innovation is a reformulation and update of this debate, which will encourage us
to think in a long-term perspective. In a second step, we will briefly review the origins of the term social innovation
and the historical context of its emergence. Thirdly, we will identify two contrasting models of support for social
innovation that explain a number of contemporary ambiguities. Finally in a fourth stage, the challenges of
appropriate policy will be discussed.
Conseil Consultatif du Ripess Europe www.ripess.eu/fr/gouvernance/conseil-consultatif/