by Professor Alexandra Koronaiou and Alexandros Sakellariou, Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences of Athens

The fields of social investment and social innovation are under-developed in Greece. They are rather unstable and vague, due to the absence of a central policy that would call for a socially-oriented action plan to be designed. The Greek state has never given priority to any policy regarding the welfare state that does not link directly to benefits and any initiatives taken are isolated and fragmented.

It should be said that a long-term lack of a central policy planning is more than noticeable as far as the existing policy gaps, or the series of policies that are under-developed and/or implemented on a pilot level is concerned. This, in turn, is translated into a lack of coordination, of action taken on a central level, of funding, of evaluating, etc. Such gaps are also explained by the huge bureaucratic labyrinth of the public sector, e.g. too many general secretariats, too many services, overlapping organisational and administrational structures, unclear responsibilities, etc. It is, additionally, important to stress that this phenomenon is intensified by the fact that there are numerous schemes for meeting the needs of a specific policy area.

More recently, due to the immense crisis and the extensive cut benefits that have been imposed even the benefits that were being offered as part of the welfare state are diminishing. As a consequence, Greece of the OECD countries presents the most rapid decline in social spending as a percentage of GDP. At the same time, international auditing bodies, e.g. the UN, or the European Social Charter (ESC) that aim at the protection of social and economic human rights, have not managed to achieve an actually positive impact in these policy fields in Greece. Because of the severe socio-economic crisis of the last 5-6 years, that brought Greek economy on the verge of an imminent default, there seems to be no pressure from European institutions for adopting a social investment and social innovation approach. At the same time EU has also stopped putting pressure or issuing recommendations on countries that are under bailout agreements. The result of the fiscal consolidation measures is that there is no room for budgetary manoeuvre to develop and finance social investment initiatives in Greece. The Third Economic Adjustment Programme (signed August 2015) along with the gradual stabilisation of the political situation (after two snap elections held within a 7 month period) is hoped to produce more effective results in terms of social investment, social innovation and social economy. Given that it will surely take quite long for Greece to come out of the crisis, main focus will probably continue to be on social benefits and immediate help on the needy (e.g. unemployed) and not on social innovation policies.

However, the InnoSI project and the selected case studies could shed more light on the issues of social investment, social innovation and social economy. It could help us understand the current situation in these fields and evaluate the selected programmes. Furthermore, through this evaluation policy recommendations could be made in order for the Greek state to examine alternative paths that could help in dealing with the current crisis and lead to decisions that could shape a more stable floor for future social policy implementations. That way the state could make feasible the “great transformation” of the welfare regime, something that seems to be extremely necessary under the current developments.