About Innosi

INNOSI asks how we can design robust social investment strategies which can deal with emerging socio-economic challenges and the aftershocks of the 2008 economic crisis.
The research will identify innovative approaches to social investment at national and regional levels across the 28 Member States with in-depth case study evaluations taking place in 10 Member States. Within the programme of research special attention is paid to the legal and regulatory frameworks required for innovation in social welfare policy and different approaches to funding social welfare policy including the potential role for third sector and private sector organisations.

Our overall approach is based on our distinct understanding of social investment which recognises:
• the importance of regional context in social investment policy;
• the role for social innovation in social investment;
• the need to recognise and measure social as well as economic value when evaluating policies; and
• how beneficiaries experiences of social investment policies play help shape civic identities in Europe.

However, this is a not a traditional research project. Key to the project are community involvement and policy impact. We believe that to develop approaches that will support effective social reform for vulnerable groups it is essential to involve them in the research and the process of policy development and implementation. User involvement thus runs through the heart of our project, ensured through recruiting a minimum of 100 ‘community reporters’ and training them in core social media skills such as photography, podcasting and film making using ‘technology in the pocket’ devices. Approximately a third of the resource on this project is devoted to impact generation. Results from the research are assimilated in a foresight analysis where we consider options for social investment in the future. Our ‘impact partners’ (typically NGOs or representative bodies) will act as ‘knowledge brokers’ taking research findings from the case studies and foresight exercise, translating them into policy-relevant material with which to engage policy-makers. Their aim is to generate impact from the research during the lifetime of the project and lay foundations for ongoing impact from the body of work generated during the project.

What Is Innosi? (Innovative social investment)

Specifically, in our in-depth case study research and our work with Community Reporters we consider how innovative social welfare policy can contribute to social and psychological transformations which would be necessary in order to address the social implications of crisis in Europe. As a result this research will support European efforts to enhance a sense of solidarity among citizens. It will contribute to the effective implementation of the Social Investment Package’s priorities in general, and to the building of the future knowledge bank on social policies in particular. A substantial part of this project will focus on using research findings to generate both policy impact, impact on practice, and broader cultural impact. Thus, we identify the potential for innovative ways of implementing and financing social welfare systems, including through third and private sector contributions complementing public investments.
European societies are changing in a number of interlinked areas including demography, globalisation, ecological sustainability, family structure, employment, poverty and social inclusion. The implications of these changes are profound. The effects of the 2008 financial of the crisis are not just economic. Uncertainty, austerity and the associated high levels of unemployment and reduction of wages have destabilised labour markets. European citizens demonstrate an increasing lack of confidence and trust not only in relation to financial institutions, companies and the free market overall, but also in relation to democratic institutions and politics at European, national or local levels
Our aims are threefold:
-Identify and evaluate existing innovative and strategic approaches to social welfare reform at a regional and local level;
-Explore social and psychological impact of these innovations on individuals and communities;
-Collate useful, practical learning from this new body of evidence and mobilise it to inform policy and practice across the EU.
We will deliver on our first two aims through:
• Macro and micro-level research on social investment policies and initiatives;
• Mixed method case studies in ten member states, taking account of local and regional networks, institutions and assets,
as well as national and European policies;
• A distinct understanding of Social Investment utilizing ‘social innovation’ as a key concept;
• A strong user voice, ensured throughout the project by recruiting and training ‘Community Reporters’
The consortium is made up of ten public universities from different EU member states, all of which are located in major, strategic cities, but are not capitals, thereby giving a regional perspective to the consortium. One of the project’s main pillars is that it is developed in conjunction with 10 impact partners from around the European union.

Universities:

  • Manchester Metropolitan University (UK)
  • Stichting Hogeschool Utrecht (NL)
  • Turku University of Applied Sciences (FIN)
  • Universitat Politècnica de València (ESP)
  • University of Debrecen (HUN)
  • Karslstads University (SWE)
  • Uniwersytet Wroclawski (POL)
  • Westfälische Wilhelmsuniversität Münster (DEU)
  • University of Bologna (ITA)
  • Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences (GRE)

Impact partners

  • EUCLID Network
  • People’s Voice Media (UK)
  • Locality (UK)
  • The Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities
  • AICCON (ITA)
  • Forum Ideburna (SWE)
  • Platform 31 (NL)
  • Tecnalia (ESP)
  • Labour institute of general confederation of Greek workers
  • Foundation Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) (POL)

Key concepts of social investment

The social investment approach stresses the case for considering certain parts of employment and social policies — and possibly other policy areas, such as education — as entailing investments improving prospects for future employment and social participation, together with more social cohesion and stability … thus stressing the life course dimension of social policies and their long-term benefits for society. (European Commission 2013a p. 3) Innosi looks specifically at the areas of Early Child Education and Care, Labour market policies for parents and Active and Passive Employment Policies
Social services and markets are often (we would argue, wrongly) seen as opposites on a value scale. Markets are generally perceived as profit-driven while social services apparently have altruistic and moral motives. However, social investors are market participants who also look to maximise their return on investment. The difference lies in the context: in social investment ‘return’ is not necessarily monetiseable (although cost savings do play a role in the increasing attention social innovation received from policy-makers) but it may be primarily measured in social values such as, for instance, subjective well-being, improvement in the quality of life, the degree of integration of hard to reach and vulnerable population groups, the frequency and intensity of shared and participatory local action as well as increased levels of social cohesion and a general sense of wellbeing which lies beyond the sphere of materiality (Pol and Ville 2009). In short, evaluation of social investment requires a re-evaluation of the way in which ‘return’ is measured. Social investment is thus defined as a market-based model.
There is an extensive literature on knowledge mobilisation that consistently shows that there is no guarantee that even methodologically robust and clearly documented research findings will influence policy and practice. There are many potential barriers and obstacles to knowledge mobilisation including the competing claims of different types of (non-research) knowledge, types of research utilisation, models of process, implementation interventions and conceptual frameworks (for a discussion of these dimensions see Nutley et al. 2003). The key implications of this for our project are that research must be translated and that translation should involve research and policy intermediaries.

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