Ebook: Perspectives for Digital Social Innovation to Reshape the European Welfare Systems
Social welfare is riddled with ingrained problems that have already defeated all standard approaches, and reform calls for counterintuitive action. Digital Social Innovation (DSI) is primarily about promoting grassroots initiatives to address localized societal problems, and is not normally talked about in relation to welfare reform, but perhaps social innovation initiatives, with their localized and case-based approach, could help to solve the enormous structural problems faced by our welfare democracies today.
This book addresses the potential and implications of DSI for the reform of the European welfare state. The 14 papers collected here focus on key issues, such as the nature of social innovation and its effects; scaling up to address structural problems and make systemic change; new social risks and challenges; the role of digital thinking and emerging technologies; public governance approaches; tolerance of institutions; integrating innovation in the welfare system; and the empowerment of marginalized citizens. These topics are examined from an integrated and multi-disciplinary perspective, taking into consideration not only current EU debate on policy trends for social protection, but also the nature of digital transformation and its effects on social change. The book also highlights barriers to adoption, as well as the potential limitations and failures of this emerging approach.
Digital social innovation is an emerging discipline that deserves more attention from policy makers and more resources from government. Drawing on welfare studies, political science, sociology, psychology, law and computer science, this book will be of interest to researchers, practitioners and policy makers alike.
This book addresses the potential and the implications of Digital Social Innovation (DSI) on the reform of the European welfare state.
We are aware that talking about DSI and welfare reforms together may appear at first sight antithetical, or even almost an oxymoron, as DSI is fundamentally promoting grassroots initiatives to address localised societal problems while welfare reforms are considered a matter of top political and professional elites committed to an ultimate grand design. However, we believe that the flourishing of social innovation initiatives, with their localistic and case-based approach, can help solve the enormous structural problems that welfare democracies are suffering. On one side, social welfare is marred by wicked problems that have already falsified the standard approaches and need counterintuitive moves. On the other side, DSI succeeds in attracting the attention of policy makers and contributing with democratic experimentalism to the public debate on options for systemic social change.
Under the research viewpoint, in the last few years leading-edge research from welfare studies, digital technology and social innovation have separately informed our understanding of social welfare’s evolution in the digital age. According to ScienceDirect, in the period 2010–2020 more than 20.700 publications concerning “social welfare” have been published. It is surprising to note that only a 3% of them is related to changes in welfare systems with the use of digital technology. From the innovation viewpoint, there are 2,168 contributions on social innovation in general. Only 15 contributions focus on “Digital Social Innovation”, of which 8 also involve the welfare system. We believe this is a promising but still insufficient wealth of contributions to address the numerous open questions relating to the topic.
In this book, we aimed at extending this knowledge by focusing on key issues, such as the nature of social innovation and its effects; the requirements for its scaling up to address structural problems and make systemic change; new social risks and challenges; the role of digital thinking and emerging technologies; public governance approaches oriented towards social experiments; tolerance of institutions for the diversity of approaches and risk of failures; how the welfare system integrates innovation; and the empowerment of marginalised citizens.
These topics are examined from an integrated and multi-disciplinary perspective, which takes into consideration not only the current debate in EU on policy trends for social protection, but also the nature of digital transformation and its effects on social change, from the path dependency and complexity of the welfare systems to the political paradigms that drive their change.
The chapters examine some key trends that can support welfare redesign, which include the rise of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in the public sector; social changes and their challenges to the current policy settlement; and the burgeoning initiatives of social innovation in the welfare system. To this end, we collected a selected set of empirical studies involving different EU countries and policy areas. By drawing on these experiences, the book offers analyses, proposals and critical viewpoints that reflect the high diversity of approaches characterizing Digital Social Innovation, strengthening the theoretical bases and inspire further praxis.
Digital social innovation is a young area that deserves more research from academia, attention from policy makers and resources from governments. Drawing contributions from welfare studies, political science, sociology, psychology, law and computer science, this book shows the advantages and potential of integrating the perspectives of researchers, practitioners and policy makers.
On the other hand, the book also aims at highlighting the adoption barriers, limitations and failures that constellate this emerging approach. Welfare failures, such as inequality, poverty, segregation and deprivation, have been exacerbated by COVID-19. The pandemic is a health problem but also a new (or very old) social risk, as social protection scholars understand. The European Union is reacting laudably by putting aside the financial compact and investing in society and the economy as never before from its foundations. These are appropriate times for laying the foundation for the future welfare state.
Fabrizio Davide, Andrea Gaggioli, Gianluca Misuraca
Rome, Milan, Seville
This chapter summarizes the argument of the book “Perspectives for Digital Social Innovation to reshape the European Welfare Systems”. We consider different and parallel perspectives that can support welfare innovation and namely the rise of information and communication technologies in the public sector, the burgeoning initiatives of social innovation in the welfare sector and social changes challenges to the current welfare settlement. This chapter introduces the terms of the discourse starting from the current debate in EU on new policy trends for social protection and its financing. It discusses nature and effects of digital thinking and connects the long-lasting history of social innovation to its recent interpretation as a complex institutional space that changes “the dominant cognitive frames that frame the social problems”. We describe the theoretical implications and the need for multidisciplinary research in a number of fertile areas. Holistic approaches to welfare innovation, emerging digital technologies and the conditions for DSI to produce structural social change need to be studied in depth. Furthermore, the collection reports many situations in which digital social innovations respond to instances in the welfare sector and contribute to the democratic debate with social experiments. Post-hoc analyzes produce interpretative models that will be useful for informing policy decision-making when political agendas are mature. We intended to recreate the lively debate going on in the field of welfare innovation and represent the many “orders of the discourse” a reader may encounter. The innovation of the book itself concerns the logic of presentation of new theories, descriptive models and empirical cases, and the resonance of the subtexts that run through all the chapters.
This chapter is set to provoke a debate on how to envision the future of welfare systems, with a specific focus on the European society. To this end, building on the discussion of the man trends and implications of the digital transformation on social protection systems, an institutional perspective to navigate through the social innovation narrative emerged in the last decade, with a particular attention to the role of Information and Communication Technologies to shape a new generation of social services and design policies to foster more resilient communities is proposed. The chapter goes on debating the drivers of change and possible governance innovation mechanisms required for addressing the macro-trends identified and defines two main dimensions of impact directing the future social development of our societies. These will be characterized by the trade-off between stability and change on the one side, and openness and engagement in the digital world. Within this context solidarity and collaboration emerge as key values upon which welfare production mechanisms will be built and resulting in a mix of welfare arrangements based on competition, cooperation and partnership models. The resulting scenarios are then presented, depicting four possible future welfare systems as thought-provoking proposals. While the Collaborative Multi-Layer-Nested Welfare Model represents somehow the ideal scenario to which we should aspire, how to reach such a future is not easy to be answered. Some suggestions are however outlined in the conclusions of the chapter, where it emerges clear that new governance systems and a profound institutional redesign are needed to address old and new societal challenges and make sure that collectively we can build a more resilient welfare society, where solidarity, openness and cohesion are the keyword for a renewed inclusive growth, which take advantage of the potential of digital technologies combined with social innovation and innovative financial mechanisms.
In this contribution, we introduce the concept of Positive Innovation Networks (PINs) as a framework to understand processes of co-creation and open collaboration involved in digital social innovation. Drawing on positive psychology, an emerging field focused on the empirical investigation of optimal human functioning, we deconstruct two assets that PINs can leverage to achieve transformative social change: networked flow and positive psychological capital. Networked flow is an optimal group experience that can unlock the creative potential of a PIN by maximizing the “we-intention” of its members. Positive psychological capital refers to the capacity of a PIN’s core team to accrue and spread hope, efficacy, resilience, and optimism. We show how these positive psychological resources can be measured and developed for improving PIN performance. Finally, we summarize the key traits of PINs and illustrate them through a case study.
This chapter provides strong empirical evidence, both quantitative and qualitative, concerning the use, relevance and impact of digital technology on social innovations for social services, and develops some underpinning conceptual frameworks for understanding this impact. It draws on a wide range of literature plus an examination of 30 successful in-depth case studies in which ICT is a major feature. The chapter analyses the role of ICT in social service value chains, in communities and social capital formation, the network effects, as well as the governance, operational and strategic considerations, drivers, barriers, and policy implications.
Europe is facing unprecedented challenges, from globalisation to migratory flows, changing family structures, ageing populations, inequality and social exclusion, unemployment, and so on. To meet these challenges, we need to modernise EU social protection systems by expanding the social investment dimension of social spending, while taking advantage of technological advancements and multi-stakeholder partnerships to drive change in the welfare system. Within this context, this chapter focuses on the role of Information Communication Technology (ICT) enabled social enterprises for promoting social investment. First, we outline the social enterprise landscape in Europe, going beyond fuzzy concepts to highlight the key characteristics of social enterprises that make them important for social change. Second, we outline key ways in which social enterprises are using ICT in their activities to achieve varied socio-economic goals: from using social media to scale up, to improving organisational management, and expanding service offerings in healthcare, education, the labour market, and other social fields. Our analysis is based on findings from our study on the role of social enterprises in delivering ICT enabled social innovation initiatives promoting social investment approaches, carried out by the authors in the framework of the European Commission’s ICT-Enabled Social Innovation (IESI) project. (See https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/iesi.) We find that ICT-enabled social enterprises are particularly important for social investment, given their ability to combine technological and social innovation, and their focus on meeting community-specific needs that can be scaled up. We encourage research and policy commitments to further test and validate how social enterprises can catalyse public-private partnerships for the delivery of public goods to safeguard our Social Europe.
The aim of this chapter is to introduce an important area where ICT-Enabled Social Innovation has a particularly high impact, civic engagement, and building a typology of ICT-Enabled Civic Engagement innovation. The idea is that ICTs are becoming increasingly pervasive in the design, development and delivery of social innovation and of civic engagement initiatives and, as a consequence, the relationship between the state (intended as government as well as administration) and citizens is increasingly mediated by the technology in what is now widely known as Smart City/E-Government and relative applications. The provision of services by the state is not only set to become more efficient/effective because of the streamlining effects of the technologies, but also new services are emergent. The framework within which our typology is set out refers to the recent literature on social innovation and ICTs studying the types of relationships between government and citizens. The typology is developed upon empirical considerations based on 41 ICT-Enabled Social Innovation Initiatives selected during the 2014 – 2016 Mapping and Analysis carried out under the aegis of the JRC. The initiatives considered emerged from a research strategy based on systematic mapping of initiatives with policy relevance where ICTs played an important role either as enabler or driver of the innovation process. The initiatives selected had proven evidence of outcomes and/or long-term exceptional output. The sample includes a wide variety of cases from different sectors dealing with the different dimensions of civic engagement. There are grass-root movements and initiatives based on or oriented towards volunteerism; it includes also initiatives engendering citizen participation and those enhancing civic engagement through crowdsourcing/funding activities. The typology developed in this chapter highlights how ICTs underpin innovation in civic engagement initiatives in two main ways; first, it provides instruments and tools to deliver efficient and effective services through modernising existing processes and, second, it has become integrated part of the service design promoting the integration of existing services or the diffusion of new services. However, between the two modes there is not a clear-cut distinction between the roles and uses of ICTs.
Innovation policies are considered to be one of the main tools to turn innovation into wealth, well-being and competitiveness in territories worldwide. However, given the ever-growing data-centered ecosystem where such policies coexist nowadays there is a founded suspicion that traditional methods for policy analysis, design and evaluation begin to fail, particularly when faster and more effective answers to societal paradigms are requested in a context characterized by sharp technological changes and unprecedented economic, scientific, political and social scenario. This chapter addresses the question whether Big Data analytics can become a tool capable of overcoming the current obstacles and adapt the public policy cycle to the new reality as it seems to be happening in the case of the private sector. We also explore if Big Data analytics can be the definitive tool to develop best policy solutions in a subjective, uncertain and dynamic environment, underpinned by different interests, as well as the degree of maturity for its application. To this end this work explores and exposes the role played to date by data in the design of innovation policies, concluding with a reasoned insight on the practical issues and unsolved research challenges that should be surpassed before empowering innovation policy making processes with Big Data analytics.
Organizations collect a vast amount of data of different types, from various sources, and through different channels. Primarily, these data are used by these organizations to facilitate their core business processes. However, today we witness a growing tendency to use these data for other purposes than that they are collected for. To this end, the data from one information system are combined with those of other information systems. Subsequently, the combined data are analyzed with advanced data analytics tools. Although there is a strong and practical need to apply such findings of data analytics to improve, among others, organizations’ (social) services, it is often not straightforward how to apply these findings in practice. This is due to many challenges arising from legal, ethical, and data quality concerns. In this chapter, we discuss the main reasons that hamper the application of data analytics findings, particularly pertaining to data collection processes and data analysis processes (like data mining and statistics). These reasons include inadequate transformations of statistical truths to individual cases, chances to fall into the trap of system realities, and required efforts to deal with the evolving semantics of data over time. The latter is due to the fact that our (social) environment is subjected to constant changes. We discuss two strategies to harvest data analytics findings in a responsible way. By means of some real-life examples in the field of social services we illustrate the applications of the strategies in practice. Furthermore, we argue that the findings from data-driven analytics may augment real-world ecosystems if they are applied with caution and responsibly.
European Union and governments of the member states are striving to respond to contemporary socio-economic challenges with social investments and enhanced social support, often relying on social innovation in their quest to welfare reforms. However, social policy innovations targeting to improve social welfare, often neglect objective data describing societal phenomena and European citizens’ perspectives and patterns of human behaviour, resulting of their real status of wellbeing. Systematic methods for measuring the impact of innovative social policy reforms and transformations in the provision of social services is an important research challenge in the European welfare system. In this chapter, a comprehensive model of evidence-based social policy making is proposed, driven by dynamic simulation methodologies and data mining techniques to extract evidence from two types of data. On the one hand, objective data coming from a multiplicity of sources, including governmental data and statistical data, are used to capture the interlinked policy domains and their underlying casual mechanisms. On the other hand, it considers behavioural aspects and citizens’ opinions as data analytics emerging from Web 2.0 sources, social media posts, polls and statistical surveys. To combine this multimodal information, our approach suggests a modelling methodology that bases on big data acquisition and processing for the identification of significant factors and counterintuitive interrelations between them, which can be applied in any policy domain. Then, the suggested methodology is applied within the context of a social policy innovation initiative aiming to counter adversities of the migration challenge. The presented model provides a first proof a concept on how ICT and specifically data intelligence can drive social policy reforms. However, further application and validation of the approach for driving policy design and implementation in the future in any domain, is suggested.
ICT has become increasingly prevalent in the development and provision of social services for children and families. ICT has enabled social innovation in children’s services and the wider social services sector through its contribution to the transformation of service management and implementation, cost-efficiency improvement and the effectiveness of service delivery. ICT-enabled social innovation (IESI) can help to address the increased demand on social welfare services, for example through improved coordination between professionals and enhanced communication with service users. These changes are presented through a number of case studies of ICT in children’s services in Europe. One of these is the development of tools for data collection by the National Child Protection Observatory in cooperation with local authorities in France. Another example is the KOMBIT standardised ICT system for the case management of children at risk in Denmark. One further example is Alborada, a shared information system in Andalucía (Spain), which facilitates data sharing and coordination between professionals from health, education and social services working with children with developmental difficulties. The analysis of the case studies has allowed the formulation of some key recommendations for the development of ICT-enabled innovation in children’s services in terms of the role that policy can play in driving forward ICT-enabled services, ICT’s role in meeting children’s needs, and professionals’ training and development for the successful introduction and implementation of ICT in children’s services.
The paper starts with an overview of the current debate on social innovation, highlighting it as a key element one of a new innovation paradigm. It presents the objectives, the concept and the main empirical results of the global research project SI-DRIVE – Social Innovation: Driving Force of Social Change, which intends to extend knowledge about social innovation by integrating theories and research methodologies. In this regard, one important goal is to contribute to better understanding the relationship to technological innovation as well as to economic value creation. The paper analyzes one of the cases mapped in SI-DRIVE’s global survey on social innovation initiatives, the Chilean company Papinotas, which focuses on improving education environment for deprived families. Children from such families with low-income background are usually excluded from Chile’s private high-quality education and have no other choice but to attend public schools, characterized by poor quality of organization and communication between schoolteachers and parents, thus causing low levels of attendance and performance. Papinotas offers an online platform for teachers for sending text messages directly to parents’ mobile phones in order to achieve better flow of information between teachers and parents and to promote a more favorable environment for education. The case of Papinotas shows how creation of social value can be successfully combined with economic value creation through introduction of a new social practice and reveals how quite simple technologies can facilitate social innovations in order to improve communication between teachers and parents, leading to better attendance and performance by students.
The chapter outlines an overview of the state of social protection in Europe and focuses on a significant component of it, the social services sector and its reform needs. Most social services are provided at the municipality level. Innovation in the cities has recently developed in the framework of the Smart Cities, though the “urban smartness” discourse reveals to be ineffective when marginal conditions are involved. Since the first half of 2010’s Digital Social Innovation (DSI) has proved the capability to create public value. DSI owes much to the vision of the commons which is actively reshaping the relationships between state, market and civil society, and underlining the importance of the non-monetary economy. DSI and commoning are considered by practitioners as a promising approach for delivering social innovation powered by digital technology in the social service sector, since public services can be considered commons. Within this conceptual framework four European cities, Roma, Turin, Seville, Manchester committed in 2012 to the “Citizens Reinforcing Open Smart Synergies” (CROSS) project. CROSS aimed at engaging citizens and creating new synergy between the diverse stakeholders of the social service urban ecosystem, thanks to digital tools, such as social cryptocurrencies, collaboration processes and mobile apps. CROSS provided immediate relief to people in need while trying to convince public administrations to open a new way for co-producing services and change the relevant policies. The chapter reports a successful technological strategy and comments on the nonmonetary contribution of the works in the sector and. Finally, the impact analysis demonstrates how far the initiative has carried benefits to many citizens and social care professionals, has combined social and economic value creation, as well as it has empowered the cities with the opportunity of data-driven policy making.
A basic strand in the mission of Public Employment Services is promoting labour market transparency, which is considered of importance for reducing unemployment and for improving patterns of labour allocation in several other ways. Self-evidently therefore, always a strong connection existed between PES operations and information and communication technology. Already the organization itself can be considered a social specimen of such technology. The ICT revolution of recent decades positively influenced general market transparency with a variety of easily accessible market places on the Internet. It also brought innovations to the PES. It changed the content of its services and the formats of their delivery. These things happened around Europe. Here the Dutch case is presented in more detail. ICT-induced innovations are followed over three subsequent stages from mid ‘80s onward. While the transformation of services was impressive and PES played a part in the increasing labour market transparency, its role in labour allocation has not noticeably strengthened. Its market share did not really increase. Neither did its contribution to less unemployment and/or a more equitably distributed entrance to job opportunities. Nevertheless, unexploited opportunities for the latter may still exist. Some are suggested for further exploration.
Social protection systems are in a major process of transformation. Solutions from the past are no longer valid, or at least valid without important adaptations, to address future adequacy, sustainability, and quality of social protections systems. Ageing, changes in the world of work and in the evolving aspirations of citizens will impact, even more than today, on the features of the welfare of the future. Supporting a social investment approach in the agenda of modernization to be pursued, which recognize the relevant role to be played by social innovation, will be a key aspect of the reforms that are needed. ICTs would help in ensuring cost effective services, reducing fragmentation, and favouring integrated social services. This will be, no doubt, a multi-faceted and complex process, but there are choices that can make a difference in maximizing the potential that ICT, s can bring: An adequate leading role of public authorities and institutions at different territorial levels; a full involvement of all relevant stakeholders in a framework of reinforced and changing relationships; and a strategic outcome-based approach, supported by evidence-outcomes will contribute to unleash this potential. This article analyses, based on relevant successful experiences, some of the major interactions involved in the development and translation of enabling-ICTs to the fulfilment of social policy objectives.